Swanage & Purbeck Rotary and Wareham Rotary held a long overdue joint meeting at The Springfield Hotel in Wareham this week to learn all about Signing.
Our presenters for the evening were Ken Ebbens from the Rotary Club of Southsea Castle and Kris Burrows, a professional Signing Interpreter. Ken explained where his initial interest in learning to sign came from and how his local Rotary club were supporting an initiative to improve access to services.
He then handed over to Kris. She brought the subject to life, explaining how we all tend to make our first judgements about people based on appearance and, because hard of hearing and deafness is usually invisible, fail to appreciate the issues faced by those unable to hear well. Kris explained the background to sign language and how it has been around in various forms for longer than people would think. She also explained that there is no universal form of sign language and it differs by country. In the UK we use British Sign Language (BSL).
In Britain it has only been recognised as a proper language by Government since 2004. Shamefully, in the decades prior to that, people who were hard of hearing or deaf were encouraged to try to speak instead, sometimes using draconian methods to force that to happen.
Kris taught us all some of the basics of Signing – including the alphabet and some of the more commonly used phrases that save people from having to spell out every word. As a result, it is hoped that we may wish to take things further following this presentation and follow the lead set by Ken and his club In developing services to those who need it.
There were several questions from the floor and an impromptu informal discussion at the end of the meeting. All present felt that this had been a very valuable use of their time.