Deaf Awareness Week: UCL develops unique course in British Sign Language
6 May 2009
UCL's Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL) is pioneering an introductory course in British Sign Language (BSL).
DCAL has secured a UCL Futures grant to create the one-term self-directed course, which will be available online.
The course will serve as an introduction for those considering careers involving work with the deaf community, including medics, clinical and educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, and also for those just interested in studying the third most widely used indigenous language in the UK, with about 50,000 people using it as their preferred language.
By reducing the barriers to learning BSL, the course will also help address the severe shortage of qualified sign language teachers.
Professor Bencie Woll, Director of DCAL, said: "By improving the ability of the hearing community to communicate with deaf people, we have a direct impact on the deaf community. The more people who can communicate in BSL, the more deaf people are integrated into society.
"For example, we've been asked to offer BSL to medical students. Imagine what a difference it would make if you're a deaf person going to the doctor, and they can communicate with you directly instead of needing an interpreter.
"At the moment, there are learning materials available on the internet and DVDs, but there is no self-contained and self-directed course where students can learn the basics of BSL without face to face interaction, so this is a first."
The course will also create opportunities for the development of new undergraduate and postgraduate programmes within UCL in subjects such as linguistics and anthropology.
Image: a signer, right, demonstrates the sign for English.
DCAL brings together leading deaf and hearing researchers in the fields of sign linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience, providing a unique perspective on language and thought based on deaf people's communication.