Beauty lecturer learns BSL to support deaf student
A beauty lecturer at Coleg Gwent has supported a deaf student by learning British Sign Language (BSL).
Kristi Jones, 28, from Ebbw Vale, is a tutor specialising in Beauty Therapy, who has been at the college for five years.
In September 2022, Hannah Carey, 32, from Brynmawr, decided to return to college as a mature student and enrolled onto Kristi’s part-time Level 3 Nail Technology course, at Coleg Gwent’s Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone.
Hannah was born deaf and uses BSL to communicate with her friends, family, and her son who will turn 10 in June.
She recently had a cochlear implant fitted to help her understand sounds in her environment.
In order to make sure that Hannah had equal access to the course content, Kristi decided to learn BSL so she could communicate with her effectively.
The mother of two said: “I was fully aware of the additional support that Hannah needed before she joined the course, as I’d had in-depth conversations with her mum about her profound hearing loss and the support that we could offer her at the college.
“We decided that the best course of action would be to provide Hannah with a Communication Support Worker (CSW) who would support her during class by translating the lesson content into BSL.”
Once Hannah was enrolled onto the class, Kristi initially began learning words and phrases from Hannah and Joa, her CSW, using basic knowledge of the BSL alphabet.
She said: “I was totally comfortable with the support that we were able to provide Hannah to make sure that she would succeed on the course, but I wanted to make sure she was fully involved in the learning experience.
“When you have a learner with additional needs, you should be able to adapt your teaching. I started by asking Hannah and Joa to teach me some phrases and words that would help her during her time in class, and it’s just grown from there.”
As Kristi continued to develop her skills, she noticed Hannah’s confidence grow.
She said: “Hannah has become more engaged in class and is more comfortable asking questions, meaning that she is included in classroom discussions.
“I’ve now built up a bank of useful terms and phrases and I feel like Hannah is really supported. She has even told me that I’m a good communicator.”
Other students in the class were inspired by Kristi’s dedication and began learning basic sign languages so they could communicate with Hannah.
Kristi said: “Since I’ve started learning to sign, I’m definitely more open-minded. I’ve even started teaching my kids the language now.
“They love it! I think that everyone should have a basic understanding of BSL, and then work to build upon that.
“Joa is running an entry Level 3 BSL course for tutors to help improve their skills and I can’t wait to get on it.
“I’m now in the process of transitioning Hannah to help her get the support she needs once she progresses onto our Theatrical Special Effects, Hair, and Media Make-Up Level 3 course. I can’t wait to see what she will achieve.”
Hannah said: “I was born deaf, so it’s all I’ve known. I was bought up the deaf way with hearing aids and learning BSL.
“I’ve recently had a cochlear implant fitted, which is helping with general sounds. I thought that returning to college as a mature learner would be challenging, but working with Joa, I’ve been really supported.
“Now that Kristi has also learned sign language, I can understand the course content much more clearly, and I’m able to get involved with group work, which has been great for my progress.
“If there are any other deaf people who may be struggling, or wondering if college is right for them, I’d encourage them to go for it. Get involved, keep positive, and if I can do it, then anyone can!”
Coleg Gwent currently has 63 deaf or hearing-impaired learners.
The college has taken significant steps to support deaf learners through a dedicated team of additional learning professionals who provide individualised support services to students and staff who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Elaine Jones, Additional Learning Needs Manager at the college said: “Kristi has demonstrated the importance of inclusivity and diversity in education and the lengths that one can go to provide equal opportunities for all.
“Deaf Awareness Week is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges faced by deaf people and provide guidance on how others can show their support.
“At Coleg Gwent, there is a real sense of belonging for deaf individuals and each day we work hard to try to create a more diverse and inclusive learning environment for everyone.”
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