UCL News


Community award for raising deaf awareness

4 June 2007

UCL medical student Emma Wilding has won an award from The Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (RNID) for her work raising deaf awareness among UCL students and the local community.

Emma Wilding

Emma started the society UCLDA (UCL Deaf Awareness) in January 2007. In the past five months, students have learned sign language and discussed deaf issues through weekly sessions. They have also learned about deaf culture and how the impairment can inform deaf people's perspectives.

Next academic year, society members will share their skills with the local community by going into schools in Camden and Islington to teach sign language and raise awareness of deaf culture. Emma also hopes that the society will raise enough money to send members on certified deaf awareness workshops.

A second-year student from Lancashire, Emma set up UCLDA when she discovered that many of her peers were interested in learning to sign but could not afford official signing courses. She also wanted her fellow medical students in particular to have access to deaf awareness information, given the difficult experiences some of her deaf friends have had in medical settings. The enthusiastic response to an article she wrote on the subject for the 'StudentBMJ' in July last year proved that there was a demand for her skills.

"It was amazing to see how enthusiastic people were to take part," Emma said. "Some of the people learning sign language would come up to me around the university to practise signing before lectures. A few students also came out with me to a local deaf pub to use their new skills and get involved with the deaf community."

Emma's interest in deaf culture and issues was sparked at the age of thirteen when her aunt started teaching her sign language following a course she had undertaken for work purposes. Emma later met a number of deaf people through part-time jobs in retail and waitressing, which led her to learn sign language at evening classes.

"I was so surprised to receive the award," Emma said. "It was lovely to know how much people had enjoyed and benefited from learning about sign language and deaf culture. It's wonderful to receive an award for something you really enjoy."

This is the first year that the RNID has offered community awards, as part of Deaf Awareness Week held in May each year. The awards recognise people who have made a difference to the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people in local communities.

To find out more about deaf awareness issues and UCLDA, follow the links at the bottom of this article.