StudentNews_SignLanguageSociety

Biomedical Science student shows actions speak louder than words

Thu, 25 Nov 2021 16:19:00 GMT
Society President, Scott, held sessions on Zoom over lockdown
Society President, Scott, held sessions on Zoom over lockdown

A GCU student has used his passion for languages to help revitalise a GCU Students’ Association Society. 

Third year Biomedical Science student Scott Craig became interested in languages while travelling as part of his previous job. This, coupled with a tragic news story during the pandemic, provided the inspiration for him to lead on the reformation of the GCU Sign Language Society. 

There are estimated to be 151,000 British Sign Language (BSL) users in the UK, and Scott, who holds the role of Society President, hopes to provide the platform for others at GCU to join them:

 

How did you personally become interested in sign language? 

“I’ve always been really interested in languages and I spent most of my time travelling in my previous career. When I was in Australia, I worked with some deaf groups and used Auslan, which is not too different to BSL.  

Also, at the start of lockdown, I came across an article about a deaf couple in the early stages of the pandemic. The guy became really ill and some paramedics came with an interpreter service through their IPad, but for whatever reason they couldn’t rely on that at the time. He ended up misdiagnosed and it turned out he had covid, which meant he had to be rushed to A&E the next morning.  

It really hit me and got me thinking about why we don’t have more familiarity of BSL with doctors and nurses. I think the best way to do that is to get more students involved in the early days of their careers. 

The UK Government and Scottish Government actually have BSL plans to make it more accessible and GCU actually has one too; the five-year plan which we’re a few years into now. I think they’re still missing the general student population, which is so important for the accessibility of the whole campus.” 

How has everything developed recently with the Society? 

The GCU Sign Language Society came about a few years ago with some paramedic and nursing students, however everyone graduated and it’s been dormant for the last couple of years.  

This year I decided to get it back up and running. It’s finally all come together during this trimester. We’ve got some great help from the Emergency Care Society and the Nursing Society as well. We’re trying to get as many students involved as possible. There are some great BSL courses out there but it’s very hard to learn it yourself.  

It’s only been about a month that we’ve been together but everyone is retaining a lot of information and it’s working really well – we already have about 30 members! 

We have nursing students, paramedics, occupational therapists, social workers – you name it we’ve got it! At the moment it’s predominately health students but we’re open to any students or staff members who are interested.” 
 

How often do you meet and do you need previous experience of BSL to get involved? 

“We’re still kind of playing it by ear a bit because we’re aware that some students still aren’t on campus that often. It’s tricky enough getting three adults to meet, never mind 30!  

At the moment we’re meeting on Tuesdays at 5pm in the library and we’re running Zoom at the same time. It seems to be working well! 

We also have a WhatsApp group and after every meeting I send out an email with links to videos which cover what we did that week. 

None of us are experts, there are a lot of beginners and we’ve actually got a cheat sheet that covers the basics – it’s open to all levels of ability. We’ve even started looking at some medical phrases that can be used, for example, if someone is feeling better or worse etc.”

 
Why is sign language such an important skill to have? 

“It’s really useful. There are definitely job opportunities out there for people who at least know the basics. The main thing is just being in that position to be able to communicate with other BSL users. It’s also probably rare that there’s someone else at the company who’ll have that skill, so it’s definitely useful.  

It’s actually recognised as an official language in Scotland, along with English, Gaelic and Scots, so it’s a part of our culture and identity now!” 

 

You can follow the GCU Sign Language Society on FacebookInstagram and Twitter 

 

By Ross Clark             
Got an SHLS or GSBS story? Email Ross.Clark@gcu.ac.uk or connect with me on Twitter