Mark McMillian is Deaf Action’s BSL Officer, working with colleges and universities across Scotland, helping them implement their BSL plans.
His educational journey began at Donaldson’s School before graduating from Edinburgh Napier University. Following higher education, Mark became a residential care-worker at Donaldson’s School for eight years. Since joining Deaf Action, he has worked in various roles including Youth Participation Officer, Employability Advisor and now as a BSL Officer. Mark also works part time as a BSL Development Officer for the Scottish Parliament.
Reflecting on his university experience, Mark believes a number of small changes could have improved his time there. Firstly, he advises that if your interpreter isn’t a good fit for you personally and professionally, have the confidence to ask for a new one. Once Mark found an interpreter that was suitable for his development, this made a massive difference to his confidence, particularly in lectures. His BSL interpreter even stayed during his lunch breaks, allowing him to make friends and communicate with fellow students.
“Do not be afraid to speak up if you feel don’t feel the communication support is right for you”
Social events are an important part of student’s lives, and one major regret Mark has is missing Freshers Week. Freshers Week is the week before you start university, filled with social events for new students to meet new people and have fun. Without suitable communication support for events like these this, Mark’s chances of attendance was hindered. Looking back, Mark wishes he was more proactive, arranging support for this week, kickstarting his university experience.
Mark’s last tip is to make sure your university or college provide Deaf and BSL awareness training to the lecturers, staff and students on your course. Everyone will benefit from this. Mark’s peers attended awareness courses, giving them the confidence to communicate through basic signs and fingerspelling.
If your university peers are willing to try to communicate with you through sign language, it’s an indication that they could become good friends.
Check back weekly to meet new deaf role models like Mark!