Learning about Deaf Culture and BSL

Hannah Bardsley attended British Sign Language classes and gained a Level 1 qualification. Her participation was facilitated by the St John’s College Student Opportunities Fund. Hannah shares what she has learnt and how she has benefitted from this course.

This academic year, I was given the chance to do something I had always longed to do, thanks to the St John’s Student Opportunities Award.

Awareness and inclusion surrounding deafness can certainly be improved in the UK, and I wanted to inform myself about it by signing up to a BSL course, through which I would eventually achieve a Level 1 qualification.

The course has been nothing less than amazing. Provided by a local company, Rare Rockets, through affiliation with Durham University, the course aims to guide you through the basics, including fingerspelling and numbers, and developing conversation using specific topics and themes. This is encompassed within the specification of iBSL Level 1 and allows the option to simply learn for fun, or take exams and receive the qualification.

In my experience, the teaching is excellent and engaging, and provides awareness into deaf culture, which has informed me greatly about communicating with deaf people and BSL-users. There was opportunity to make friends in the group, and practise together. I particularly enjoyed that two hours of my week were entirely separate from my studies. These tough years of living with COVID and the changing restrictions has taken a toll on students, whose university experience has been heavily affected. When I experienced this cumulative effect, together with the pressures of third year, I found that the community and encouragement I received from the class gave me such a boost.

Not only this but learning BSL has also strengthened my focus in terms of career aspirations. Next year, I will be continuing my study, aiming for my Level 2 Certificate. I will most definitely continue to raise the awareness that we should all be striving for social inclusion and equal access in our communities and should consider whether we are educated about deafness.

I would highly recommend learning British Sign Language, and especially applying for the opportunities award. The BSL course would not have been accessible for me without this financial contribution, and nor should anybody else be discouraged for financial reasons.

An estimated 18% of the UK population are deaf or hard of hearing. If each of us tried to gain a basic understanding of sign language and deaf culture, it could make a huge difference for communication and acceptance.

Please follow these links to deaf charities, and to the Durham University Sign Language Society, to find out more information.

British Deaf Association – Home (bda.org.uk)

RNID – National hearing loss charity

Rare Rockets – Rare Rockets

Durham University Sign Language Society – Posts | Facebook

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