Ensuring inclusivity and accessibility is high on the agenda for South Lanarkshire College, as they continue to increase the number of British Sign Language (BSL) courses and training across their curriculum.

The East Kilbride based college recently enrolled 12 members of staff in their Introduction to British Sign Language course, aiming to help staff understand and communicate with colleagues and students in sign language.

British Sign Language officially gained legal status as a language in Scotland in 2015 and with over 87,000 deaf people currently in the UK, the college has increased the number of courses to meet demand and support those wanting to learn the language, including offering the courses to staff as part of their continuing professional development.

As part of the colleges’ long-term goal and BSL plan the college also employs BSL interpreters, who support deaf students in class, ensure fair access across the college and interpret key messages and content to those who need it.

Anna Robin, BSL student and Painting & Decorating Lecturer said:

“I was inspired to take up the Intro to BSL having previously had 2 Deaf students in my class. They had a college interpreter to support them, which was great, but I felt if I’d had some previous training I would have been able to communicate directly with them. I really enjoyed the introductory course and I’m now studying Level 1 along with other staff from across the College. It’s a great course and I’ve been amazed how quickly I’ve learned BSL.”

With a number of deaf students enrolled each year and deaf members of staff employed at the college, the course being offered to all college staff has helped increase the level awareness of BSL, with many more staff looking to pick up the language in the coming months.

The staff have now all successfully completed the introductory course and a number of them have moved on to Level 1 BSL to further enhance their learning.

One of the college’s BSL students, who was supported in their class was, Sarah Wilkie, who studied Painting & Decorating at the college. She added:

“Anna was a really good lecturer and made me and my sister Emma feel comfortable in her class. We got really good support with our BSL from Carmen the Interpreter. We had a great time at the college and would both love to come back to study again in the future.”

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Cameron, who was also a student at the college, has recently been employed as a BSL Interpreter and Support for Learning Assistant, to support the increasing demand for BSL. He said:

“I studied BSL at South Lanarkshire College as a deaf student and have recently been employed as a new member of the Support for Learning staff. It has been amazing meeting everyone, learning new things and supporting students. The support from everyone has been amazing. Some staff have recently finished their Introduction to BSL and this is helping raise awareness. It has been brilliant and really heart-warming being communicated to in my first language during a time where everyone wearing masks really restricts lip reading.

Thank you all for welcoming me and being supportive. I am really enjoying working here and feel confident that together we will eliminate many barriers and help students better their future in a college of excellence and equality”

Pauline Heeley, Curriculum Manager for Learning and Development, added:

“It’s brilliant to see the increase in awareness and use of British Sign Language across not just the college but the whole country. It is important that as a college we strive for maximum inclusivity and ensure everyone feels welcome working and studying here, and the BSL courses really do support that ethos. The staff specific BSL course has been a real success and it helps a wide range of curriculum and support staff understand the language and communicate effectively with deaf colleagues, students and partners.

I would encourage anyone who is wanting to learn BSL or find out more about the language to get in touch with us on our website.”

If you want to find out more about British Sign Language and the courses on offer visit www.slc.ac.uk