This month’s Guest Blog is an interview with the founder of the ‘Let Sign Shine’ Campaign- Jade Chapman.
E: “Hi Jade, tell me a bit about yourself!”
J: “I am 18 and in my first year of studying a degree in Psychology with Sociology. I also work for the charity Sense, where I help look after deafblind adults in their homes. I have a younger sister and brother, who both have disabilities. My sister Laura is profoundly deaf and has a cochlear implant. She uses sign along with limited speech to communicate. She also has verbal dyspraxia which means she finds it difficult to produce speech. My brother has autism and ADHD, he also had verbal dyspraxia but was able to overcome this with speech therapy when he was younger.”
E: “What inspired you to create the ‘Let Sign Shine’ campaign?”
J: “I was inspired to start Let Sign Shine as I saw the isolation that Laura was facing in society. She finds it incredibly hard to communicate with others, as most people are unwilling to try and understand what she is trying to communicate. The majority of people do not have any knowledge of sign language and thus leaves a big communication barrier for those who need it.
I recognised that there is a large number of people who face a similar problem. I want to change this and make society much more inclusive and a better place for all. A lack of communication can bring many negative consequences and for those who sign, it’s not a desirable life to live.
Schools teach other languages such as French, Spanish and German, but not sign language. Sign was made an official language in 2003 but is not consistent in schools like the other languages. If sign was taught in schools, the communication barrier for those who use sign would be significantly reduced. As a result I was inspired to start my campaign ‘Let Sign Shine’ and began the petition to get it taught in schools.”
E: “What is the campaign aiming to achieve?”
J: “The ‘Let Sign Shine’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of sign language. I aim to show how it can make a positive difference to other signers, if other people simply knew some. My petition currently has just over 5, 200 signatures and my goal is to reach 10,000. Once I reach 10,000, it requires Parliament to give a response on this issue.”
E: “Can you share some challenges that you’ve faced along the way?”
J: “I would say that the biggest challenge I have faced is gaining the support and spreading the word about the campaign. Unfortunately national media/press are not interested in helping or doing a story on ‘Let Sign Shine’. Another struggle is some of the negativity towards me trying to help reduce this communication barrier. Some individuals have told me to leave sign language and the deaf community alone.”
E: “What’s your biggest achievement from this?”
J: “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have won the Bernard Matthews Youth Award (BMYA) in the education category in 2014 and the Radio Norwich Outstanding Achievement Award in 2015. I’ve also been lucky to be shortlisted for the Radio 1 Teen Award. It wouldn’t be possible to pick just one as my biggest achievement!
I would have to say though, that thanks to the BMYA, I wouldn’t have received the £1000 prize money, which I was able to use to pay for 13 weeks introductory BSL course at my former high School, Dereham Neatherd. This helped a lot and was a massive step forward with my campaign. Hopefully many other opportunities will arise like this in the future, so I can continue getting sign language taught in schools.”
E: “Tell me about these famous faces!”
J: “I was lucky enough to receive a reply from Vivian Campbell, a guitarist of my favourite band ‘Def Leppard’ who wished me the best of luck. I also received encouragement and support from Treana Peake who is the wife of the guitarist Ryan Peake from the rock band ‘Nickelback’. The TV presenter Nick Knowles was so kind to tweet the link to my petition and replied to my email personally stating that he supported my campaign and firmly believed that schools should teach sign language.”
E: “Can you give some tips for hearing people when communicating with signers?”
“I would advise everyone to make sure that you are in good lighting and easily seen. This allows the signer to be able to lip-read if they need to and for them to be able to see your signs clearly. I would also suggest to everyone to make sure they are expressive. Body language and facial expressions are incredibly important to signers as it allows them to understand the conversation better.”
E: “Thank you Jade for a fantastic interview, I wish you the very best with your campaign.”
If anybody would like to sign the petition, please click here.
Love E x