Monday, 11 June 2007

Deaf awareness

Dorothy Miles 1931-1993. Sign language poet and playwright.
Last week we ran a course on the Deaf Community - raising awareness for library staff. The trainer, Richard Stacey, uses (at least) two languages, English and British Sign Language (BSL). He speaks English in the atonal way we often associate with deaf people and to be honest it can be off putting at first. We tend to panic. Will we understand them? Will they understand us? Are we expected to understand those hand movements? Should we write things down?

The delegates soon found that these fears quickly disappeared and that communication need not be a problem. Richard covered the nature of the deaf community, general communication tactics, finger spelling and etiquette surrounding conversations in different contexts. By the end of the session everyone had greater understanding of the issues involved and were more confident in their ability to communicate with deaf library users. More information on the course can be found on the SINTO wiki.

I was surprised that there were not more delegates on this course. There is a relatively high proportion of people with hearing loss in our area due in part to the industrial heritage of Sheffield and most libraries would have deaf or hard of hearing users. Four public library authorities were represented along with staff from three other organisations. Given the benefit that is gained from a modest investment in such training I had hoped that there would have been a greater response. Many of those that did attend said that their colleagues would have benefited from attending the course.

As I have said before, I think libraries respond to the expressed training needs of their staff but do not always identify their own institutional training needs very well. I am keen to run this event again but it does depend on there being sufficient interest not just from individuals but from libraries.

1 comment:

sgibson said...

I am Deaf and I was most interested to see your comments about the Deaf Awareness course. I am very glad that SINTO is making an effort to understand the need of the Deaf community.

I know Richard the Awareness tutor and we used to meet up from time to time for a chat.

At the moment, for me and for many members of the Deaf community, the library is not Deaf friendly and hence many Deaf people do not go to libraries at all. This needs to be addressed.

I am publishing eBooks where Deaf people can 'read' books in both English and British Sign Language. See my website and download a demo CD.

If libraries have them, Deaf people will start to visit libraries.

There I have said my bit!