The lessons at Edge Hill have been introduced following Ms Cooper’s bill to have BSL recognised as a language in its own right within law in the UK was passed in parliament, ensuring that more people have the opportunity to learn this important skill.
Following Ms Cooper’s recommendation, Edge Hill has provided a Profoundly Deaf tutor to lead the programme who is able to add their own life experiences to the lessons.
Eliot Wright, Director of the Language Centre, said: “We carried out a survey to see what languages our students and staff wanted to learn and BSL proved extremely popular. With advice from our local MP, we’ve been able to design a course that weaves in the lived experiences of the tutor.
“Everyone on the course has expressed how much they are learning about BSL and about life living with a disability from their amazing tutor, which is enriching their overall teaching experience.”
There are an estimated 151,000 sign language users in the UK – and some 87,000 of those use sign language as their first language. Despite its widespread use there is still a national shortage of BSL interpreters making it difficult for Deaf people to communicate in everyday situations, such as going to the doctor.
The bill has secured government support for BSL education in schools and a raft of new support measures for deaf people.
Rosie Cooper MP said: “It’s fantastic that Edge Hill have set up this course for students that want to learn BSL. It’s so important that anyone that wants to learn BSL does so through an accredited course like this one, and with a properly qualified Deaf tutor. Not only are students learning this beautiful language through an accredited course, but they’ll be learning about deaf culture as they go.
“After the passage of my BSL bill, I’ve been bowled over by the incredible changes we’re already seeing, and the wider public embracing Deaf culture and BSL. This course and the students that have enrolled are a brilliant example of this, and I commend Edge Hill for their work in setting it up.”
BSL teacher Bryn Williams said: “After 35 years of teaching BSL from Deaf Awareness, Level 1 – Level 6 in various settings, which involved setting up my own company and also working with DRC, I thought I’d never see the day arrive when BSL would be recognised in its own right and within UK law.
“Also, to welcome Rosie Cooper MP, who was instrumental in this fantastic achievement, to the first cohort of BSL learners at Edge Hill University was a special moment. Hopefully, this first cohort in BSL will be the catalyst for further BSL courses at Edge Hill University.”
PhD health student Kir Turner said: “My career aspirations are to teach and work in universities, and further develop my disability advocacy work. This course has enhanced my existing disability support skill set, enabling me to connect with more clients and break down communication barriers.”
The University’s Language Centre provides a range of language classes including the new BSL course which is being taught in partnership with the Deafness Resource Centre (DRC) in St Helens. For more information visit The Language Centre www.edgehill.ac.uk/departments/academic/efl
November 24, 2022