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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

New BSL Sign Language Launched For Deaf People Wanting To Work In Tech

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More than 500 new signs have been created for words and terms related to digital skill to help young deaf people get jobs in the tech sector.

Skills Development Scotland has partnered with Data Education in Schools, the DDI Skills Gateway and the Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) to create new British Sign Language (BSL) signs specifically for skills and jobs in digital technology.

More than 500 words and terms have been created covering computer science, cyber security, data science and software development to help the deaf community access qualifications and careers in one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country.

A team of 8 deaf people from across the UK, who are also tech experts, spent 8 months with sign linguists developing and testing the new signs.

Ben Fletcher, Principal Engineer with the Financial Times was one of the team member’s that was keen to create a common language for deaf people in tech.

He said:

“Throughout my whole life I have studied and worked in computing, but tech and BSL have often been a difficult combination. 

“There’s a huge list of computing terms, very few of which have dedicated and widely recognised signs, and others I just had to make up. 

“It was very frustrating.

“We now have a standard glossary that will really help deaf people in schools, colleges, universities and workplaces across the UK.”

Before this glossary was launched, deaf people often had to spell out each individual letter of the specialised terms used in the digital space. 

These new signs make it easier and more efficient to communicate about digital skills and jobs.

Popular tech words and phrases now covered include artificial intelligence, computer science, cyber security, ethical hacking, firewall, data breach, data science, machine learning and phishing.

Edinburgh school pupil Billy-Jack Gerrard (aged 17 and from St Augustine’s RC High School) is deaf and is wanting to pursue AI and computer science at university.

He claims the new BSL signs will be life-changing for people like him.

“These signs will make a huge difference in terms of both studying for the right skills for a job in tech, and then also for actually working in the sector itself.

“Once embedded into the fabric of BSL, the consistent use of the terms will make life so much easier, and in turn far more inclusive, for deaf people like me wanting to pursue a digital career.”

Head of Digital Technologies and Financial Service at SDS Phil Ford added:

“This is a brilliant project that we supported without hesitation.

“It will help deaf people get jobs in tech while also enhancing diversity and inclusivity in the sector, all with the ultimate aim of plugging the skills gap of an industry which is vital for Scotland’s economy.”

The full list of signs can be found on the SSC website, but Kate Farrell of Data Education in Schools says she is keen to keep adding to the list.

She commented:

“Like the technology itself, which is constantly changing, the accompanying language also has to be updated.

“So, by its very nature, this BSL glossary will have to do the same.

“We therefore welcome the continued input from technologists, deaf or otherwise, to ensure that we stay up to date with the terminology around skills and jobs in tech.”

Dr Audrey Cameron, Chancellor’s Fellow and SSC’s BSL glossary manager at Moray House School of Education and Sport is proud of the BSL sign development team.

“I wish to thank SDS for their financial support to help expanding the STEM in BSL glossary to enable young deaf people to have better access to these new topics. 

“The sign development team has been awesome and creative in developing these visual representations of the terms.”

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