NHSBSA staff learn sign language to support colleague

Staff at NHS Business Services Authority are raising awareness and challenging perceptions of hearing loss and deafness by learning BSL to support their Deaf colleague.

Staff at NHS Business Services Authority are raising awareness and challenging perceptions of hearing loss and deafness by learning BSL to support their Deaf colleague.

Matt Lannigan, IT Digital Degree Apprentice at NHSBSA, is profoundly Deaf with no speech. He joined NHSBSA seven months ago and his colleagues began learning British Sign Language last month to help support him and others.

Matt explained that his colleagues made a big difference to his working life: “My colleagues learning British Sign Language has really helped me. It’s been a really interesting and varied role too.”

This week (May 6-12) marked Deaf Awareness Week 2019. There are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK, so that's around one in six of us. Yet only a fraction of those people use British Sign Language. About 151,000 people in the UK use British Sign Language and 87,000 of those people are deaf.

Rachel Brown, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the NHSBSA, said: “At the NHSBSA we are really passionate about promoting equality and diversity and being supportive to all of our staff. Learning BSL is just one of the fantastic things we have done to really promote inclusion for all.

“We are committed to ensuring everyone can be themselves at work and be their best. That’s why we are very proud to be working towards Disability Confident Leader status and we are in the Stonewall Top 100 for our work on LGBT inclusion.”

Amanda Casson-Webb, Joint Chief Executive of the charity Royal Association for Deaf People, explained deaf people consider themselves to be a ‘linguistic minority and not disabled’. She said: “To the deaf community, deafness is not a problem that needs to be fixed. Can you imagine how it feels when you communicate in your first language and most people don’t understand you? Or when you need to access a website or important document in your second language? 

"The lack of legal recognition means that deaf people continue to face communication barriers in their daily lives. Everyday tasks like dealing with a delay on public transport can be a real challenge."

To watch a video of Matt and his colleagues explain their story, just visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtXDXSef6s4

Contact Information

Sahdia Hassen



Notes to editors

Deaf Awareness Week is an annual event to:

  • raise awareness and challenges of deafness and hearing loss faced by 1 in 6 people in the UK
  • promote the positive aspects of deafness
  • promote social inclusion
  • raise awareness of the huge range of local organisations that support deaf people and their family and friends

The campaign is primarily owned and promoted by the UK Council on Deafness. https://www.deafcouncil.org.uk/about-us/

The British Deaf Association wrote a beginners’ guide for communicating with Deaf people. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • For Deaf people with limited hearing, or lip-reading skills, speaking clearly will help
  • Speak clearly in whole sentences, without using abbreviations.
  • Be prepared to repeat yourself if the lip-reader doesn’t understand you first time
  • Even the best lip-readers only catch less than half of the words which are said to them, natural facial expressions and hand gestures can really help
  • Don’t be tempted to speak slowly, loudly or exaggerate your mouth movements, because that just makes things harder for the person trying to understand you
  • Make good eye contact; look directly at the deaf person, don’t turn away, and don’t cover your face or mouth
  • Remember to wait until the person is looking at you before you attempt to communicate
  • Don’t stand with a light or a window at your back; the light needs to be on your face
  • Begin the conversation by saying what you want to talk about
  • Be responsive; nod rather than saying “mmhmm”. Use gestures and body language where appropriate
  • Do speak clearly and slightly slower, but don’t shout as this will distort your lip patterns; keep your head fairly still
  • If you’re really stuck you can write something down
  • Best of all, learn British Sign Language!