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August 25, 2004

£21,000 boost to help promote sign language

From: News & Star, United Kingdom - Aug 25, 2004

By Elizabeth Kay

Health reporter

MAJOR developments are taking place in Cumbria in a bid to give people with hearing loss and deafness a greater role in education, business and society.

Cumbria Deaf Association (CDA) has won almost £21,000 as part of a new £1.5 million Government cash handout to help develop and raise awareness of British Sign Language.

It has also won the support of Cumbria's Learning and Skills Council to help develop new learning pathways for deaf people in higher education, helping to train British Sign Language interpreters who can work in classrooms with students.

The windfall follows the Government's recent recognition of British Sign Language as a language in its own right and could help the 66,000 people who have hearing loss in the county.

The association's chief executive John Brown said: "Profoundly deaf British Sign Language users have a culture of their own in the same way many other minority groups do.

"Many people using sign language have been born profoundly deaf so it is their first language, not English. Their knowledge of this language is breath-taking and they are proud of this.

"However, there needs to be much more awareness of sign language as we have found it very difficult to get it recognised, and people who use it all the time without thinking can be upset when people either don't acknowledge it by writing down notes, or shout loudly to try and communicate with someone who is deaf."

Mr Brown said the grant would be used for a series of projects to raise the profile of the language that are being designed by Peter Shaw, the CDA's manager of Community Services.

There are more than 60,000 people in Cumbria with a significant hearing loss.

CDA supports people in the county affected by hearing problems and encourages them to reach their full potential.

The charity has offices in Barrow, Carlisle, Kendal and Whitehaven.

© 2004 News & Star