Written by Beth Oldfield
Before I came to university I always wanted to learn sign. Not just for the reasons you’d think of; trying to communicate with the deaf people on Leeds; not to be helpful in anyway – just because it seemed fun! I worked at a supermarket which employed a small amount of deaf people and so this seemed like a good time to start learning the language! In the past I’ve tried to learn a foreign language but it all seemed too hard for me but as I’m an artistic person I use my hands for everything I do, also doing British Sign Language is like learning English again, but using signals. It couldn’t be that hard to learn! I used to watch YouTube videos of people doing cover videos of songs, using sign language. It looked amazing, it’s so cool that you’re able to translate music into signs… its like an art form!
When I came to Leeds Beckett, I attended the Fresher’s fair and I wasn’t able to find a society about Sign Language. It seemed impossible that this university had all different cultures and languages in societies, but not their own native sign? Well, I was going to change that! There weeks of emailing back and forth… ‘someone must know of anyone who can help’! I emailed ‘languages4all’ in the languages department then finally contacted the Student Union who came up with the solution! Why not set up my own society?
I filled in the start up pack, I didn’t have a committee, I didn’t know anyone who wanted to learn or help. I made a society completely by myself. Creating a Facebook page and finding interested people was easy, but finding people willing to pay the prices for the lessons was a different story. A Deaf teacher in Leeds replied to me after I had emailed every single teacher I could find; he was willing to reduce the price for us! I managed to group together 5 other Leeds Beckett students who wanted to learn. The year I started the society, 26,024 students enrolled at Leeds Beckett, but only 5 students came forward and wanted to learn British Sign Language. After the first year we had all past our Level 1 and became a real society within the university.
Fresher’s fair 2015 was then upon us… I had made banners, signs and badges, contacted tonnes of global and local deaf charities who sent up a whole bunch of goodies to give away. These went down so well and we had almost 200 students sign up to learn! Unfortunately, only 8 people stayed in contact with us and wanted to learn after we found a new amazing teacher. These lessons didn’t go ahead but 2016 is a new year and the University have take it upon themselves to give us the opportunities to learn BSL and communicate with the wider Deaf population!
I’ve now finished my Level 2 in British Sign Language and it has opened up so many doors for me. I now work as a support worker for a Deaf lady in Leeds, and have been offered a number of jobs which require Sign Language. Learning this amazing language will open up so many opportunities as well as it being really fun! Its well worth learning. The NHS have pledged by the 31st July that the accessibility to information standard will be improved by bringing in specialists who interpret and communicate for patients who need communication help. This should bring in new jobs for people who sign and know other languages.
LBSU BSL Society Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/leedsbeckettbslsociety/