South Yorkshire gets behind Deaf Awareness Week 2020

The national awareness campaign from 4-10 May 2020 is hoping to make as many people as possible ‘deaf aware’ as well as raising vital funds to support their students.

This year the Doncaster Deaf Trust celebrates its 190th anniversary and has joined forces with a number of organisations across the borough for the ‘Come Sign with us!’ campaign which will see those getting involved learn to sign. 

Doncaster Rovers, South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service are all taking part and have been tasked with learning some British Sign Language (BSL) key phrases related to their field of work.

South Yorkshire Police will be posting videos on their social media throughout the week from their Police Link Officers for the Deaf about how they learned to sign, and what it means to them to be able to support the deaf, deafened and hard of hearing communities.

Others to sign up include CAST, Right up Our Street, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Lakeside Village, XP School and Jill Wood who is the current President of the Doncaster Chamber of Commerce and managing director of Signum Facilities Management. 

The culmination of the event begins today (4 May) when, over a 12-hour period, videos of all those involved will be shown on the Deaf Trust’s social media channels. It will begin with  learning the colours of the rainbow as a symbol of hope for the current situation.

In addition, the Trust is encouraging children to get signing themselves by taking part in a sponsored five-day BSL challenge where they can try and learn how to sign some new words and phrases each day and ask parents, grandparents and friends to sponsor them. 

Any money raised will go towards equipment for the new health and wellbeing suite at Doncaster Deaf Trust. A JustGiving page has been set up for donations to be made.

Alexis Johnson, executive principal of Doncaster Deaf Trust, said: “It has been an extremely challenging time for everyone recently but we wanted to bring a bit of positivity and light relief to proceedings by continuing with our plans for Deaf Awareness Week. 

“Encouraging as many people as possible to be deaf aware is incredibly important especially during crisis periods like we have had recently, as every member of our society needs to have access to clear information that is communicated in a way they understand.

We’re really pleased that so many organisations across Doncaster are taking part in our ‘Come sign with us!’ campaign and I can’t wait to see all the signing taking place on 4 May.”

Remote learning is also being provided to support many students during these unprecedented times in lockdown.

The videos from the partner organisations will be shown on Doncaster Deaf Trust Facebook and Twitter accounts from 7am-7pm on Monday 4 May.

Doncaster Deaf Trust, based on Leger Way, recently launched a free online, level one,  British Sign Language (BSL) course funded by the National Lottery which has seen over 10,000 people sign up. Details for the course can be found here.

The course was designed by Natalie Pollard and produced by Mike Beslin.

Mr Johnson, added: “We are thrilled to now have more than 10,000 people from across the country taking part in our BSL level one course.

“We are sure that this platform will also be useful to people who are helping the Deaf community as the Covid-19 pandemic and government measures regarding social distancing and isolation will mean that some Deaf people will need help and assistance and basic sign language knowledge will help massively in making them feel reassured.”

The first section of the course covers basic signs including greetings, numbers, addressing people, travel and transport and hobbies. The course is not yet complete and further sections of level one will be released in the coming weeks. 

Actors and signers on the course include Janet Eakets, Karen Glennon, Karen Holdsworth and Simon Tacey with Liz Deakin as course contributors.

Online courses and social media have become even more important to spread awareness due to lockdown restrictions. The Deaf Advice Team at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Sheffield have also had to adapt to these changes when dealing with clients.

Advice Team member, Liz Searle said: “In previous years we have been out to give training to people, such as bus drivers, at SheFest, and once in the Gardeners’ Rest pub.

There are lots of resources that people can find online, such as the BSL fingerspelling alphabet, and even courses if people want to learn this language.

At the moment we’re all working from home, using video calls to communicate with clients and the advisers have been extremely busy dealing with appointments and case work.”

You can find out more about Doncaster Deaf Trust and the Come Sign With Us campaign on social media on Twitter or Facebook  or on the website, you can sign up to the free BSL course here and the Deaf Advice Team on Facebook.