Been a busy couple of weeks, so all the intelligent comments on MP Dawn Butler’s use of BSL to ask that question in the House of Commons have been made. Please excuse this tardy comment – thank you Ms Butler.
On the morning after she signed her question there was discussion on the radio news (I’m sure TV covered it but I didn’t see the box for a couple of days) and people began talking about signing. Instantly, awareness of the need for signing was raised and the perfect visual example of someone signing and speaking at the same time must have made a lot of folk realise that BSL isn’t a blur of hand motions – that comes with experience and practice.
Interpreters provide an immeasurably vital service and I intend no offence, but for those who don’t know, need, or use BSL, the figure in the corner is a distraction. That’s the problem with minority issues, don’t need, don’t understand. But, connect words and hand shapes, steadily, and things begin to make sense and aren’t such a daunting skill to take up. And that, in itself, is a great step forward.
Few weeks ago I was at ENT and got speaking with a lady who experienced a considerable loss in hearing. I mentioned lipreading (and BSL) and how meeting others with hearing loss at classes can be a massive help and an aid to gaining confidence and mixing with folks again. She said she’d thought about it, but was scared of failing and making a fool of herself – not the first to feel like that. I told her something I’d heard back in January. In response to a question about putting on a play that might not be a success the answer was given that trying and getting something wrong isn’t bad, it’s evolution.
My thought is that not trying is getting something wrong. Making a mistake is how we learn and I’d encourage anyone to try lipreading and, if available, signing. No one will laugh or make snide comments because they’ve been through, or are going through, the exact same learning process. Chances are, they’ll be more helpful than you might imagine because they know. Simple as that, they know.
I can cite an example. As a kid I evolved into knowing that a car’s cigarette lighter can still burn even when it isn’t glowing red and I had the concentric rings for a few weeks to prove it. You’d be surprised how many others did that as well.