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Raising Awareness of Sign Language Week

To raise awareness of Sign Language Week we chatted to Heather Patterson who works for RNIB Cymru as a Rights, Advice and Information Case Worker.

Heather was born deaf along with her brother and attended a regular school that had a hearing impaired unit. Although Heather was allocated a few different teaching assistants who would help write down notes in class, in most lessons Heather was left on her own with no help at all.

“I do feel my education was pretty poor compared to hearing children, my son is also deaf and he had a more positive education as he had access to BSL interpreters. It is so important that all children no matter the disability have the same access to education as their peers,” says Heather.

Heather also has a daughter who is hearing but her first language is British Sign Language (BSL) and is working towards level 2 at the moment.

It was at the age of 16, Heather learnt sign language and says when she’s lip reading, about 70 percent is guess work. After school, Heather attended a specialist college for the deaf in North of England.

“There are no specialist schools for the deaf in Wales anymore; the last was in Penarth, Cardiff which closed down back in 2000. If children need specialist help they have to go to England”.

Heather has worked at RNIB Cymru for 3 and a half years and has found it a very supportive organisation. Interpreters are available to help her and she organises the support need with funding from Access to Work.

“I enjoy working at RNIB Cymru. Everyone is accommodating and I don’t feel at all awkward. Although when I started, there were a few staff who had a “rabbit in headlights” expression but quickly adapted! There are future concerns with Access to Work. They had a review a few years ago and for the first time in my working life I will be restricted to how many days I can have an interpreter to help me. I currently use interpreters 4 days a week but this may be reduced to three.”

Heather is extremely passionate about raising awareness of sign language and has even organised for some BSL training for staff at RNIB Cymru.

To join in the conversation or to learn more about Sign Language Week, visit http://signlanguageweek.org.uk or follow the British Deaf Association @BDA_Deaf on Twitter.