Sign language lessons aim to improve inclusiveness at Lanarkshire College

Ensuring inclusiveness and accessibility is a priority for South Lanarkshire College as they continue to increase the number of British Sign Language (BSL) courses and training across their curriculum.

The East Kilbride-based college recently enrolled 12 staff in its Introductory British Sign Language course, aimed at helping staff understand and communicate with colleagues and students in sign language.

British Sign Language was officially granted legal status as a language in Scotland in 2015 and with over 87,000 deaf people currently in the UK, the college has increased the number of courses to meet demand and support those wishing to learn the language, in particular by offering courses to employees as part of their continuous professional development.

As part of the colleges long-term goal and BSL plan, the college also employs BSL interpreters, who support deaf students in the classroom, ensure equitable access throughout the college, and interpret key messages and content to those who need it.

Anna Robin, BSL student and lecturer in painting and decorating said:

“I was inspired to take Intro to BSL after already having 2 deaf students in my class. They had a university interpreter to back them up which was great, but I felt like if I had received any training beforehand I could have communicated with them directly. I really enjoyed the introductory course and am now studying Level 1 with other staff from across the College. It’s a great course and I was amazed at how quickly I learned BSL.

With a number of deaf students enrolled each year and deaf staff members employed at the college, the course offered to all college staff has helped raise awareness at BSL level, with many more staff looking to learn language in the coming months. .

Staff members have now all successfully completed the introductory course and a number have upgraded to Level 1 BSL to further their learning.

One of the college’s BSL students who was supported in her class was Sarah Wilkie, who studied painting and decorating in college. She added:

“Anna was a very good lecturer and made me and my sister Emma feel comfortable in her class. We received very good support with our BSL from Carmen the interpreter. We had a great time in college and both would love to come back to study again in the future.

Cameron, who was also a college student, was recently hired as a BSL interpreter and learning support assistant, to meet the growing demand for BSL. He said:

“I studied BSL at South Lanarkshire College as a deaf student and have recently been hired as a new member of the learning support staff. It was amazing to meet everyone, to learning new things and supporting the students. The support from everyone has been amazing. Some of the staff have recently completed their introduction to BSL which helps to raise awareness. It has been brilliant and truly heartwarming to be communicated in my native language at a time when everyone wearing masks is really restricting lip reading.

Thank you all for welcoming and supporting me. I really enjoy working here and I am confident that together we will break down many barriers and help students improve their future at a college of excellence and equality.

Pauline Heeley, Learning and Development Program Manager, added:

“It’s great to see the increase in awareness and use of British Sign Language not just at university, but across the country. It is important that as a college we strive to be as inclusive as possible and that everyone feels welcome to work and study here, and the BSL courses really support this ethos. The staff-specific BSL course has been a real success and helps a wide range of program and support staff understand the language and communicate effectively with Deaf colleagues, students and partners.

I encourage anyone interested in learning BSL or learning more about the language to contact us on our website.

If you want to find out more about British Sign Language and the courses on offer, visit www.slc.ac.uk

Sylvester L. Goldfarb