Recently a member of ABSLTA (Association of British Sign Language Teachers and Assessors) contacted ABSLTA to raise concerns about a new paid-for BSL Level 1 on-line course.
Unfortunately, it turns out that all was not as it seemed on this course.
To watch this programme in BSL, click play or scroll down the page to carry on in English.
After further investigation, it appeared that the course provider has been set up by an unregistered lady without any recognised BSL training, qualification or accreditation. Nor has she/he worked with deaf people in the past.
These are dark times for genuine BSL Teachers and their students too.
So, what is going on here?
Genuinely qualified and Registered BSL Teachers have so much to offer. They are able to:
• Enable hearing people to engage deaf people
• Teach British Sign Language, as a language
• Share the richness of deaf culture and history
• Create an understanding of how deaf people live
• Work effectively with deaf people, and develop friendships
Yet speaking from experience as a BSL Teacher at three colleges, I was always the last to know what was happening at the college, as I cannot hear. I had to be assertive to get the facts.
Now many of our courses have have been cut – without consultation – by local authorities to save money. Teachers forced out of jobs. A few are lucky to hold onto possibly only job they have for life. This is part of the government’s austerity cuts.
This has created a vacuum that is leading to an increase of unqualified spammers who see an opportunity to sell BSL courses using word-of-mouth among people, friends and families.
These people tell people that they are helping deaf people. It is a very easy thing to do. They may befriend one or two deaf people and then claim that these deaf ‘friends’ are supportive of their business. Really?
How can we move forwards from here? We need:
• Funding to protect BSL Teachers and courses
• A national accreditation and registration scheme for BSL tutors
• Only qualified BSL Teachers to deliver online learning courses and apps with approved resources
• Raise awareness among potential future BSL students to check if a course is genuine.
There are BSL resources available waiting to be further developed and provided for all. We just need funding to make all this happen.
By Caroline Hurley