What we experience is basically a breakthrough in the representationof deaf people in the mainstream media.
Rose Ayling-Ellis, who is profoundly deaf and uses a hearing aid, is appearing on Strictly Come Dancing and so impressive have been her performances with partner Giovanni Pernice that she is now the bookies favorite to win the competition. She explained how the show has been made accessible for her.
“I have an interpreter with me so that I can understand what’s going on all the time. So even if you don’t
see them on the camera, they are there always. I know it’s a bit creepy watching all the time.”
Rose’s involvement in the show appears. to have caused a surge in people wanting to learn British sign language, or BSL, according to the training provider BSL courses.
We spoke to Stacey from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People.
“It’s fantastic to see more people wanting to learn British Sign Language because being deaf can sometimes be very isolating.
By learning some simple BSL, you can help deaf people to feel included, it’s important to remember that not all deaf people use BSL though.
But for those who do, it makes a huge difference when communicating.”
Also, Lindsay Foster is the chief executive of Signature, one of the UK’s leading awarding bodies for deaf communication qualifications.
She told me about the Rose Ayling-Ellis effect on the sector.
“Well, we’ve been following Rose since the start of the competition, but what we’ve seen more recently, especially with Giovanni really embracing learning British Sign Language and dancing and using British Sign Language.
We’ve seen the visitors to our website increase quite significantly. I mean, they’ve gone up from 25,000
a month to 83,000 a month.
The inquiries that we’re getting and asking us how to learn sign language really has gone through the roof.”
So that’s traffic to the website. So that sort of people searching for you, searching for sign language
and then clicking on your site?
“Absolutely. Yes. People looking just to learn sign language.
And they’re finding us because we have a centre finder where you can find a registered center, where you can learn with recognized teachers and make sure that you’re actually learning British sign language to the best standard possible.”
And do you get a sense that a lot of people who are searching for you are not actually deaf or hard of hearing?
That they actually are, they just want to know more about it. Learn more, learn about the language, learn how to communicate.
“Definitely, definitely. I mean, we see a lot of people who say things like I’ve always wanted to learn
but never really got started.
And I think seeing Rose and Giovanni, they’re getting started.
They’re actually picking up the phone, they’re actually going onto websites and they’re trying to find somewhere to learn where before it’s just been an idea.”
Um, you know, a lot of people learn a foreign language in school. How would learning British Sign Language compared to, for instance, learning French?
“It’s very different.
It is, it is a, it’s an entire new language it comes wrapped up with the culture and learning about the community and the history.
It is a very, it’s very emotive.
Once you get into learning the language, people become really engaged with the culture.
But it’s very it’s very visual.
It’s very tactile. “
Is it easier or harder?
[laughs] I mean, how do you compare the difficulty of it?
“It’s it’s very different because the the the order that you sign doesn’t match the order in which you would speak in English.
So it has its own word structure, so you reorder sentences.
But it’s it’s it’s quick and it’s passionate, and a lot of how you express something in sign is down to what your face looks like and how quickly you move your hands, as well as the actual signs.”
Lindsay Foster there