Mark McQueen is a freelance presenter and BSL tutor. Mark was accepted onto two courses at university, running parallel to each other – one where everyone used BSL, and the other where he was the only BSL user.
In Mark’s first course, everyone used sign language, which allowed for easy communication without barriers to learning. This benefitted his learning, as everyone was able to support each other and contribute equally. His lecturer was fluent in BSL and could explain any English terminology in detail.
From being able to understand all elements of that course, to then joining a subsequent course full of hearing people was a shock for Mark. Reflecting on his first class, where all discussions were spoken, he had no opportunity to be involved in the discussions.
At a disadvantage
Mark soon realised that he was missing valuable information which even his interpreter could not relay to him due to the of the course. Occasionally the interpreter could only provide interspersed translation through fingerspelling for the specialised terminology, making it difficult and exhausting to process.
The most striking difference was when the interpreter left after class, and Mark was on his own – in his previous course, he was able to discuss the course topics over lunch with his peers. In the new course, he couldn’t get involved in the spoken English conversations.
“I experienced four times the mental weight of the course because of that”
Tips for deaf students
When attending university, it was apparent that not everything was arranged for him, such as course materials or interpreters.
Mark’s tip is to thoroughly research what university you are going to, contact their disability or BSL service and let them know you will be starting. This way, interpreters, equipment and other support can be booked in advance, making learning as smooth as possible.
It’s also a good idea to speak with other deaf people who have attended university to get their tips and tricks before starting your studies. SAAS provide funding for your equipment so ensure the university are not side-tracked by who is paying for the equipment you require.
Be quick in giving the disability service your SAAS request so they can begin making the arrangements.
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