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NHSBSA staff learn sign language to support colleague

Staff at NHS Business Services Authority are raising awareness and challenging perceptions of hearing loss and deafness and by learning BSL to support their deaf colleague.

Matt Lannigan, IT Digital Degree Apprentice at NHSBSA, is profoundly deaf with no speech. He joined NHSBSA seven months ago and his colleagues began learning British Sign Language last month to help support him and others.

Matt explained that his colleagues made a big difference to his working life: “My colleagues learning British Sign Language has really helped me. It’s been a really interesting and varied role too.”

This week (6 to 12 May) marked Deaf Awareness Week 2019. There are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK, so that's around one in six of us. Yet only a fraction of those people use British Sign Language. About 151,000 people in the UK use British Sign Language and 87,000 of those people are deaf.

Rachel Brown, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the NHSBSA, said: “At the NHSBSA we are really passionate about promoting equality and diversity and being supportive to all of our staff. Learning BSL is just one of the fantastic things we have done to really promote inclusion for all.

“We are committed to ensuring everyone can be themselves at work and be their best. That’s why we are very proud to be working towards Disability Confident Leader status and we are in the Stonewall Top 100 for our work on LGBT inclusion.”

Amanda Casson-Webb,  Joint Chief Executive of the charity Royal Association for Deaf People, explained deaf people consider themselves to be a ‘linguistic minority and not disabled’.  She said: “To the deaf community, deafness is not a problem that needs to be fixed. Can you imagine how it feels when you communicate in your first language and most people don’t understand you? Or when you need to access a website or important document in your second language? 

"The lack of legal recognition means that deaf people continue to face communication barriers in their daily lives. Everyday tasks like dealing with a delay on public transport can be a real challenge."

Watch a video of Matt and his colleagues explain their story.