Your Future – Deaf vloggers: Using British Sign Language at university
August 15, 2019
Hiya, my name is Ruth, I’m 21-years-old and I’m profoundly deaf. I’ve used British Sign Language, or BSL, all my life to communicate and I decided to get involved with vlogging because a lot of hearing people use vlogging to share their experiences and I wanted to use a similar method to share my experiences as a deaf person with other deaf people. At the moment I’m studying at the University of Wolverhampton. I’m doing deaf studies and social policy. I’ve been here for one month so far and I’m really enjoying it, I love it here. I’m settling in well, I’m enjoying the course and the accommodation is great, staying in the halls, so yeah. Everything’s going well so far. I decided to move from Northern Ireland to England to study at Wolverhampton University. There are a lot of things you need to think about when you’re looking at university – whether you’re happy to travel to one that’s far away, you need to think about what courses they offer, what support they offer you as a deaf person. So it’s really worth going to their open days to see what they offer and I’m sure that some universities do have very good support mechanisms in place. You also need to think about the students that attend that university and whether there are other deaf students that you’ll be able to communicate with. So it’s really important to think about which university you’re going to go to, which course you want to do and what the student community is like there. Those three things are really key when thinking about which university to choose. When I decided I wanted to come to the University of Wolverhampton I wanted to know what kind of accommodation they offer because there are lots of different types of accommodation. They have smaller units, which is like the halls I’m living in currently. I wanted to live in a small unit as I thought I’m going to be living amongst hearing peers I wanted to make sure there were only a few of them because I would find living with a lot of hearing people quite daunting. Also I wanted to see the other people that were doing the course with me. The people that would be sharing accommodation with me, I wanted to know whether they were going to be doing the same course as me and whether they were deaf themselves. Luckily here at the halls that I’m living in, we’ve got six of us all together that are deaf, so it’s really great here as I’m able to communicate with other students within the same halls as me. And then if I’m having problems within the university with regards to support or the course, I can ask whether any of the other deaf students are having the same problems as me. It’s a really good chance to share our experiences with each other. So it might be worth asking whether that university has any other deaf students applying there, going for the same course. When you apply for your university the next thing that’s worth doing, I’d say around February time, is applying for your DSA – which is your Disability Student Allowance and that covers all your support needs. So you might need a note-taker, an interpreter or extra time in exams or more one-to-one time with your tutor. Currently I have an interpreter and a note-taker, also through my DSA I have been provided with a laptop and a printer which is really important for me as a deaf person. I already knew that Wolverhampton University had good support for deaf students, so once I got my funding in place it was easy to get my interpreters in place too. So when you attend your university open day ask what support they offer and also whose responsibility it is to put all that support in place. Just ask as many questions as you can on that day, so you feel confident that that university is or isn’t the right place for you. Because there is some support I didn’t realise they had here that I could access, which is great. Because they’re used to having deaf students here they had a lot of things in place like I’ve said, I got a laptop and a printer. Also I use mind maps regularly, I create them for my notes because English is my second language and I find it easier to put things into a mind map before I type up my essays, so having my printer and my laptop really makes that easier, it’s the small things that make a big difference. Before you start university sometimes you can worry a lot about the support you’re going to get and your accommodation but once you get here you find it’s fab and that’s what I’ve definitely found. There were things I forgot to bring with me, I was a bit unprepared to be honest but I was so concerned with getting the support in place I didn’t really think about the things I needed to bring, so think about before you move what you want to bring for your accommodation to make your room feel like yours, so you feel homely because that will all help with your university experience. Support is important but the whole university experience itself is really good and it’s not as scary as I thought it was going to be. I’ve really enjoyed it so far. I’ve learnt to keep hassling the support unit here, if I haven’t got the support in place that I like I will say “I’m not happy with this interpreter” or “They’re not suitable for me, I want to change to another interpreter”, I just keep saying “I need this… I need this…” and also for example my one note-taker would email me her notes which would mean I’d have to print them off so I’d said I would prefer to go pick them up from the office. So just things like that are really important. The whole settling in stage is your opportunity to get everything in place, so you put up with those things for the first couple of weeks and then after a while everything settles down, but just be confident – if you’ve got something that you’re not happy with, ask for the right thing to be put in place. And it’s all about your degree at the end of the day, so it’s whatever you need to make sure that your experience is good. Ok, so a few tips – firstly in freshers week it can be quite scary because you don’t know who else you’re going to be sharing halls with and who’s going to be on your course. So just be friendly, like within your bedroom leave your door open in your halls so people can look in, see who you are and come say hi. It might be hearing people that come in but that’s fine, just let them know how you communicate and say straight away that you’re deaf, don’t be scared about your disability or the fact that you’re deaf. You might be the first deaf person they’ve ever come across, just be friendly, say “I communicate like this…, I can lipread, to get my attention tap me on the shoulder, write notes to each other.” Whatever it is that you need to tell them about your communication methods and say things like “I’m happy to teach sign language if you want”. I was quite lucky within my room because it’s quite deaf friendly. I have a flashing doorbell here, so if anyone comes to the door the light flashes. So it’s worth asking your university about that, whether they will provide equipment like that. Also you can get a device that goes on your door that flashes when someone knocks it. So make sure you’ve got all those things in place so that you’re on an equal footing with all your peers. I know that it can be difficult but just make sure that you regularly go into the common room and into the kitchen, make cakes to share with everyone, make friends if you can. And when that’s in place it will make the rest of your journey at university much more easier. So yeah, the first week is just an amazing experience and it’s really good fun. I wish I could go back and do it all over again, it was great. Ok, so that’s my university experience so far, which has been fab. If you’re not sure about university, whether you’re going to do it, don’t worry too much. I mean I’m 21, I didn’t start university straight away after college, I took a gap year and travelled. I’ll be talking more about my experiences in my gap year in my next vlog. So if you’ve got any questions or comments please comment below the video, also if you’re at university and you’ve got any tips that I haven’t mentioned please comment below if you think that would be helpful. Please Subscribe to the National Deaf Children’s Society’s channel they post every week on a Sunday.