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September 4, 2007

Sign language success

From: News Wales - Knighton,UK - Sept 4, 2007

Deaf residents in Swansea are finding it easier to get information on housing grants and benefits thanks to new skills gained by two council housing workers.

Swansea Council Housing Services welfare officers, Tina Evans and Andrea Harrington, have each gained a qualification in sign language.

The duo, who work in the Renewal and Adaptations Team in the Guildhall, asked to take part in the courses after experiencing first hand the frustrations experienced by officers and residents with hearing difficulties in trying to communicate.

Swansea Council funded their places on a training course at the Phoenix Centre, Townhill, and they joined Swansea's deaf club to practise and hone their skills.

They have now both passed Sign Language Introduction Level 1, and are already being called upon to offer assistance.

Buoyed on by their success, they've now signed up for the next level of training and hope to spread their skills across the department too.

British Sign Language is the most widely used method of signed communication and is the first language of more than 70,000 deaf people across the UK.

It uses hand shapes and movements, facial expressions and shoulder movement to convey meaning. People who use BSL also use finger spelling.

Tina said: "It is so important that we are able to give and get information back from people so that we can give them the very best advice and support.

"Sign language is not easy but it opens up a whole new world and it is great to see the difference it makes in the service we can offer.

"We are both keeping our skills up with lots of practice."

Andrea said: "I have always felt that the ability to communicate through sign language would be beneficial to the deaf community not only for the Council's Renewal and Adaptations Team, but also for other public services within the Council who may need an interpreter.

"It is extremely rewarding being able to offer this personal touch to the welfare service."

Chris Jones, Community Housing Services Manager, said: "The vast majority of people who receive housing and disabled facilities grants are older, vulnerable and disabled people. We are committed to ensuring that clients can access these services, and having officers trained in signing will greatly help us achieve this for people with hearing disabilities."

Cllr Graham Thomas, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: "The Council is committed to staff training and development to ensure that we can deliver high quality services to our residents. This demonstrates our commitment to achieving these aims, and I would like to congratulate Tina and Andrea on their success."

Source: Swansea Council
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© 2007 News Wales