Just launched on DAB, Brooklands Radio – the community radio station for Surrey – is now reaching an even wider audience. It means that if you’re in your car or at home in the North West Surrey and Rushmore areas, you should be able to hear the station loud and clear.
Listen in and I’m sure you’ll agree how professional-sounding the shows are. I’m delighted to be part of the Brooklands team – you may have heard my voice on a number of ads (currently the Holiday Inn Shepperton), in interviews and presenting various shows.
For our Upper Hand Digital clients, it means that I can invite them onto my shows and even do special radio programmes with them. With author, Patricia Jones for instance, I organised for her to present her own radio show from Haslemere Bookshop! Great PR all round.
It was a delight to interview Kathleen from Dot Sign Language on Brooklands Radio recently.
The sign language school – based in Woking – teaches British Sign Language and gives deaf awareness training. Since I started doing digital marketing for them last year they have worked with Heathrow Airport, Lloyds of London, CPS, Willmott Dixon to name just a few.
Kathleen, who runs the school, is profoundly deaf but this hasn’t stopped her from being extremely successful. Our interview includes how technology is helping deaf people and how to sign my name
If you think we can help with your digital marketing for your small business, please get in touch. There’s no extra charge for appearing on Brooklands Radio:
Here’s the interview with Kathleen.
A transcript is available below.
Dot Sign Language Brooklands Radio Interview Broadcast 16/02/2019.
Tim Mitchell chats to Kathleen Grehan from Dot Sign Language. Voice over by Kathleen’s Communication Support Worker.
Tim: I’m delighted to have with me Kathleen from Dot Sign Language. They’re based in Woking and they teach Deaf Awareness and also British Sign Language.
Kathleen is Deaf so her voice to today will be voiced by Clair who is her communication support worker. Welcome to Brooklands Radio both of you. I should explain that there will be a delay in between the questions and also answers because Clair and Kathleen are signing to each other.
So Kathleen, hello, welcome. Tell us about Dot Sign Language.
Kathleen: Dot Sign Language is a not for profit organisation. It’s has three areas. Firstly, we teach British Sign Language courses. Secondly, Deaf awareness training and thirdly community work.
Dot Sign Language developed from the Dorothy Miles Cultural Centre – shorter name, DMCC and that was set up as a group back in 1997 (a group of Deaf students and their friends). It was set up to honour the famous Deaf poet who was born in this area. She was also a writer, worked in the theatre and was a Deaf activist. Dot also worked in America as well as the UK. Her poetry and her campaigning work influenced many people. Dorothy Miles influenced many Deaf and hearing people to come together to learn and work together.
Tim: Is it easy to learn sign language?
Kathleen: It depends, people are different. Some people learn it quickly – you might find it easier if you tend to use more visual language and more gestures. Some signs are very visual and easy to learn – things like having a drink, that’s very visual, but other signs like sister are more arbitrary and harder to learn.
We’ve got different courses – Level 1,2,3,4, and 6. So level 1 would be like “How are you?” – so that’s quite easy. Hearing people firstly have to get used to doing the hand shape and then they’ve got facial expressions and that can be quite hard for people if they’re not used to doing it.
Tim: Right, let’s have a go at some sign language. What can you teach me this morning?
Kathleen: What words would you like to know Tim?
Tim: “My name is Tim”.
Kathleen shows Tim how to make the signs.
Tim: Ok so I’ve got two fingers and I’m putting towards my forehead and they’re flat against [my head] – the other way round (referring to the fingers) like the Brownies or the Cubs. I’m going down at about a 45 degree angle (referring to the two fingers) straight down.
Kathleen: You have to fingerspell your name. There isn’t a sign for your name so we use fingerspelling.
Tim: Some people do have their own signs for their names don’t they?
Kathleen: Yes. Maybe I’ll give you Tim with radio headphones on. That will be your new sign name.
Tim: Or a man with no hair.
Kathleen:…Because you love the radio. Tim or Tim – radio Tim. Sometimes we give individual people sign names – maybe it’s linked to your behaviour, your background – different things. So people would give you a sign name – sort of a name to match your personality.
Tim: How do I spell my name in fingerspelling? So I’m pointing to my left hand.
Kathleen: Your vowels are your thumb and fingers of your non dominant hand. So the ‘I’ is your middle finger.
Tim: So my left hand, I’m pointing to my Timmy Tall finger.
Kathleen: Pointing with your index finger.
Tim: (Kathleen shows Tim) And then I’m pointing to the side of my hand and then using three figures in the palm of my hand. So that’s how people get started – with fingerspelling?
Kathleen: Maybe we start with ‘hello’, ‘how are you?’ and then later mix up your name and then we’ll go onto fingerspelling. We don’t start off with teaching fingerspelling all the time – we start with meeting and greeting.
Tim: Can we do ‘hello’? (Kathleen shows Tim).
Kathleen: It’s a wave and also your facial expression. It’s a welcoming facial expression.
Tim:… making a different face.
Kathleen: Yes, quite often there are the same signs which mean different things so you have to link it to your facial expression, your gestures, your non manual fixtures to show what the sign means in that context. So if you were doing ‘angry’ you would do an angry facial expression to show your meaning.
Tim: Are you finding more people are learning British Sign Language or becoming Deaf aware?
Kathleen: Yes lots of hearing people want to communicate with Deaf people. They feel embarrassed that they can’t communicate with Deaf people so they are trying to learn sign language.
So the first step is to learn a little bit and they get excited that they can communicate with Deaf people – maybe they’ve got Deaf children, they know Deaf people from school. Around 95% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents. In that case the hearing parents need to support the child. They need to think about schooling, how the Deaf children are going to get access to education.
Tim: What about lip reading?
Kathleen: Lip reading is also call oralism – it means that Deaf children are expected to learn to speak and to lip read. It’s important that the Deaf child has the option to choose what to learn communicate orally or through sign language. It’s their choice.
In the past sign language was banned in Deaf history. In 1880 there was the Milan Conference where sign language was banned for many years but there is an improvement. Since 2010 there has been progress but there’s a lot of repression of sign language from the past so we still need to improve things still.
Tim: Does modern technology help these days? Is there still a need to learn British Sign Language?
Kathleen: Technology is changing all the time. First there were hearing aids, radio aids and technology is progressing. Now we’ve got text, everything’s new. So Deaf people can communicate with hearing people now through text, FaceTime, different forms of social media such as email. Think about when you go back to 1950 the hearing aids were big. Things progress. There are videos – maybe in the future there will be sign language robots translating! Who knows?
I think there’s better communication with hearing people. There’s more awareness with people looking at you in the eye using their facial expressions – things are progressing. Lots of people are seeing sign language and the different variations. They see it in America, they see Israeli sign language and it’s opening their minds and they are recognising that there is sign language all over the world. And there are differences in sign language all over the world, in the same way as spoken language is.
Tim: Different accents? Dialects?
Kathleen: Ask someone why they speak the language they speak. A French person, who grew up in France would say it’s their culture and it’s the same with me. I’ve grown up signing and that’s my Deaf culture.
Tim: You learnt Irish sign language?
Kathleen: Yes before when I was growing up I learnt orally but also using Irish sign language. I’ve got lots of Deaf family sisters and brothers (8 of them are Deaf) and we all sign together. Before I used to teach Irish sign language and then I moved here to Britain and I learnt BSL (British Sign Language).
British Sign Language uses the two handed alphabet – in Ireland we use one hand the same as America. Going back in Deaf history, in Britain teachers were very secretive with how they taught and they kept it to themselves.
So in America the educators asked the British if they would show them how to teach and they didn’t want to help them teach.
So the Americans asked the French who used one handed fingerspelling and they were happy to help the Americans and that’s why in America, France and Ireland we use one handed fingerspelling. In Britain, we fingerspell with two hands. They wanted the parents of the Deaf children to pay for the education.
Tim: My goodness. Things have changed are you’re now doing more Deaf awareness training in organisations so which companies/organisations have you worked with recently?
Kathleen: Before I used to only teach British Sign Language courses now I’m trying to diversify and I’m contacting companies because they need to follow the Equality Act 2010 but I don’t want to pressurise them or push it, so I ask the companies whether they want to set up some training, do you want some teaching?
Do you want to learn how to communicate with the Deaf? Maybe you have met a Deaf person, colleague or customer – you want to improve communication. We try to encourage it, we’re not trying to put pressure on saying: “You must follow the law.” It’s a gentle encouragement, relaxed training session.
It’s a good opportunity for the staff to improve their communication and feel comfortable communicating.
Tim: Who have you worked with?
Kathleen: For example, Heathrow Airport. I was training them on how to communicate with Deaf clients/passengers at the airport. Other ones, there’s a building company – Wilmott Dixon. Also Lloyds of London.
Tim: Big names.
Kathleen: Companies want to know how to book an interpreter – the staff really aren’t sure how to do that type of thing. Also how to improve communication in local GP surgeries. One Deaf patient complained after she had a bad experience – the receptionist realised they needed to learn about Deaf awareness.
Tim: I’ve been doing some research and I found that around 50% of Deaf people don’t visit their doctors because of communication issues.
Kathleen: There’s a report called the ‘Sick of It’ – there’s lots of information there. Deaf people are more likely to have health problems than hearing people because it’s harder to go to the GP to get quick treatment. So there’s a real discrepancy in healthcare. Things like diagnosis of high blood pressure, cancer so Deaf people are more at risk. GPs do need to encourage more Deaf people to come to the surgery. The GPs need to be able to book interpreters so that the Deaf people can communicate.
Tim: It would be useful if people in the GP surgery could learn/do some British Sign Language as well?
Kathleen: Yes of course. Deaf people like to see more hearing people sign like you Tim.
Tim: I shall try my best.
Kathleen: If you’re in the pub just a “hi, how are you?”
Tim: Makes all the difference.
Kathleen: Don’t be frightened or nervous when they see a Deaf person.
Tim: Quite right
Kathleen: For sisters, brothers, parents and grandparents, it’s really important to learn to communicate with the [Deaf] child. There is some funding available but we need more. It needs to be encouraged.
Tim: It would be wonderful if everybody could learn some British Sign Language. Can you give us your website address?
Tim: You’re based in Woking and you cover all of Surrey and London as well?
Kathleen: All over the South East.