With over 87,000 deaf people in UK, and 151,000 who use sign language to communicate, odds are you probably know someone with some form of hearing loss.
British Sign Language (BSL) is a language communicated through gestures and facial expressions that has been around since the eighteenth century. Back in January, the government backed a second BSL bill, which means we are one step closer to achieving legal recognition for BSL.
This parliamentary move came after Rose Ayling-Ellis – the first ever deaf celebrity to take part in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ – made headlines for her regular use of BSL during the show, and her campaign for the government to give the language legal status. Not only Rose’s story motivate protestors to demand the approval of the bill – it also encouraged a whole group of people (including us here at Seccl) to become more familiar with BSL.
Why deaf inclusion is important to us at Seccl
We know that deaf inclusion plays an important role in workplace equality. We also know that to build a diverse workplace that supports and includes everyone means taking decisive action and making an effort to step out of our own experiences. This is how the Seccl BSL Club was born.
When asked why they set up the BSL club, Charlotte said, “I became interested in learning BSL when I finally came to terms with my own hearing loss. It’s important for us as a team to be able to communicate better with those who are deaf or hard of hearing and to further support equality in the workplace – this could have such an impact for someone like me. Plus, so far, learning BSL as a group has been really fun!”
Arifa says, “At school, I wondered why we weren’t encouraged to learn BSL the same way we learned French or Spanish together in class.
“I started teaching myself BSL, but I found it hard to learn independently because I had very little opportunity to practice with other people. There were a few frustrating months of going back to square one every time I picked up from where I left off. I shared my frustration with Charlotte and we decided to practice together. After realising how many other people at Seccl were in the same boat, we opened up this learning experience to everyone.”
We’re learning BSL! Our new Friday afternoon activity…
Every other Friday afternoon, a group of Secclers come together to learn and practice British Sign Language using a course on Udemy Business (a platform we all have unlimited access to).
At the moment, we are learning BSL basics like letters of the alphabet, numbers and phrases such as, “Hello, my name is…”. We even learnt some finance terms like “investments” and “advice”.
Our aim for the next few months is to be able to hold full conversations with each other in BSL. Another slightly more ambitious goal is to learn Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ in BSL by end of 2022…
How it’s going
Leaning as a group is by far the best part of these sessions – we always have a laugh. Of course, it’s not always easy, but having others there to encourage you is incredibly helpful. Throughout the week, we have a dedicated Slack channel where we share stories, BSL tasks and challenges and updates from the hard of hearing community.
In terms of the actual signing, I’ve learned that although you don’t have to be perfect, the key to getting to grips with BSL (like anything really) is to practice. That and the gestures have some pretty interesting origins –my favourite example of this is that the word “age” is expressed by tapping the nose bridge – because your nose never grows old.
Arifa is committed to getting better at BSL. “I’m hoping to at least attain a level 3 BSL certification by end of this year,” she shares.
Jess Carter, Digital Marketing and Content Executive, also shares her enthusiasm: “I’m so glad we started these sessions and now I have an opportunity to improve my BSL skills. I Co-chair a charity that helps young people with additional needs to access adventure sports, so BSL is going to be hugely valuable for me.”
Inclusivity is one of our major goals here at Seccl, and if we can better communicate with those who are hard of hearing – and help them to feel more included – then these sessions will be truly worthwhile.