Volunteers learn sign language

volunteers after sign language course

Volunteers at St John Ambulance in Suffolk have received a special lesson in sign-language.

A day-long course was recently arranged for its ambulance team, which was led by a well regarded British Sign Language tutor.

Geraldine Brown, who led the course, is profoundly deaf and played a significant part in the design of the day's training.

The event, was intended to help volunteers understand how communication is made more difficult for deaf clients on a daily basis. It also gave the team the opportunity to finger-spell, and the skill to perform basic signs for common medical conditions and symptoms.

The day was a great success and I was able to to learn some of the sign language techniques which are key to our role within St John Ambulance.

Trevor Bailey
St John Ambulance Emergency Transport Attendant

An overall deaf awareness session was also given as part of the course.

Keith Hotchkiss, Operations Manager for St John Ambulance Suffolk, said: 'As a transport and first aid service, we inevitably see patients with all kinds of short and long-term medical complications – and deafness or communication difficulties are something we frequently witness.

'It makes sense that we should equip ourselves to be able to better understand patients at a time when they are in contact with us because they are vulnerable or in high need.

'We set about establishing a link with members of the Deaf community in the region and found that they were very receptive to the idea of assisting our ambulance staff and helping them develop the basic skills of communication.'

The day-long event was held at the headquarters of St John Ambulance Suffolk, in Bramford.

Trevor Bailey, an Emergency Transport Attendant for the charity for four years, said: 'I thought this was a great idea and was really keen to be part of the event. The day was a great success and I was able to learn some of the sign language techniques which are key to our role within St John Ambulance.

'There have been many times when we have attended patients and have had to work quite hard to make ourselves understood or to understand what the individual is trying to tell us, so this is a great step for both us and the patient.'

Since the training took place, one member of St John Ambulance Suffolk has already put their new skills into practice. When assisting a deaf person who was suffering from a sudden illness, the volunteer used the signs learnt as part of the course to communicate with them.

Keith Hotchkiss added: 'With an estimated figure of over nine million deaf people in the UK and a rising number of elderly population suffering from difficulty in hearing, this training has been most valued. Due to the success of the course, it is probable that more sessions will be conducted within Suffolk allowing our volunteers to offer assistance to a wider community in Suffolk.'