At Work: Communications - Medium and message

Indira Das-Gupta

Becoming Visual Communication has made a documentary charting the history of British sign language.

The North Tyneside Disability Forum invited not-for-profit organisation Becoming Visible Communication to make a film documenting the history of British Sign Language after securing funding from the Local Heritage Initiative, a Heritage Lottery Fund scheme. "English has adapted since the days of Shakespeare, and BSL has also changed over the years," says Louise Redpath, project worker at Becoming Visible. "It has had to adapt to take into account advances in technology, for example. Because there's no written format, the only way to preserve it is on film."

Our Lives and Signs is a documentary that is intended to be a celebration of both BSL and deaf people. Numerous interviews with people of different ages were carried out at deaf clubs across the north east.

"Everyone we spoke to made a valuable contribution, but the interview with Jane Harris, who is now 91, does stand out," says Redpath.

Harris reminisces about her childhood in a school for the deaf, where she was treated very badly. "Sadly, this is very typical of the experiences of deaf people of that generation," says Redpath.

If Becoming Visible can get more funding, she wants to expand the study of sign language to the rest of the country to cover regional variations.

"There's a real dearth of information about BSL," she says. "We want to preserve the beauty and richness of it before some of the signs are forgotten."

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