Dear Sir,

On Saturday 1st February a Deaf Gibraltarian lady, Maite Facio-Beanland, stood in front of a predominantly hearing audience and gave us an insight to the Silent World of a Deaf person. It was a courageous and sincere expose of the life of many deaf people in the world which was succinctly delivered through a BSL interpreter and we the Brugada family warmly congratulate her for the uninhibited and relaxed style in which she delivered it. Well done Maite. 

The efforts in recent years by Government departments to encourage the facilitating of Sign Language interpreters in the GHA, Primary Care Centre, Education Department and Care Agency through a HMGOG Service Level Agreement with a UK based BSL Interpreter Agency, though slowly is starting to grow the confidence Deaf Service Users in Gibraltar.

Also efforts by the Equality Dept of the Ministry for Disability who have been actively encouraging the facilitating of BSL Interpreters in public functions, as well as delivering a series of Disability Equality and Awareness lectures to the private sector, are slowly but surely bringing a greater awareness to the community at large. These facilities have increased Deaf Service Users “Equal Access to Public Services” and Public Events unimaginably.

While there is much room for improvement all round this has given Deaf people increased confidence in managing their lives and gone some way in restoring their self esteem.

Maite made an important point during her ‘Gib Talk’ on Saturday which has prompted me to once again take up the cudgel on behalf of Deaf people. She remarked that there was a great need for British Sign Language classes to provided in Gibraltar.

Now like Maite, my Deaf daughter Jacqueline, with Deaf husband Phillip Jarman, returned to her roots in 2011, following my retirement in UK, after twenty seven. From that date Deaf Signing started to become commonplace in Gibraltar as old friendships were renewed and Jacqueline’s young ‘hearing family’, were seen uninhibitedly Signing with their parents at school functions and Gibraltar’s public areas.

The stares over the last nine years have slowly dissipated and the novel Signing has been accepted as another language and now taken for granted.

However though this may sound quite a simple process it has taken nine years of hard work and lobbying by the Gibraltar Hearing Issues & Tinnitus Association (GHITA) as a Charity and a lot of my personal direct involvement with the Government under my own initiative.

In the earlier years since our return from UK, with the good auspices of GHITA, we raised thousands of pounds funding from major Gibraltar Charitable Trusts and Private Sector Companies. With these funds, together with GHITA, we presented a Deaf Awareness Conference in October 2013 at the John Mackintosh Hall attended by the CM, Education, Health & Disability Ministers, HE the Governor, Commissioner and other Senior officers of the Police & Fire Services.

The presentation guest speakers came from the British Deaf Association, a UK Police Deaf Community Officer and a Gibraltar Legal representative assigned by the Gib Govt Ministry for Disability.This conference, delivered to a packed JMHall, inspired the CM and his Ministers to to take note of the numbers of Deaf people in Gibraltar.

The following years, 2014 to 2016, saw the delivery of a series of BSL Sign Language courses given at the JMHall and old Westside School. The courses covered BSL Level 1 and 2, included several Govt Dept frontline staff, nominated by Govt itself, though funding by Govt was conservative! The bulk of the funding for both the Conference and the BSL classes was funded by the significant sums donated as indicated earlier by Trusts and the Private Sector.

Sadly, like with all well intended initiatives, the money tap was turned off as Trusts and Private sector benefactors cannot exclusively fund one particular Charity or cause as there are many other deserving causes in Gibraltar.

I'm not talking here of £1 in the can donations, the Conference and BSL classes cost circa £40,000. Now whilst most grateful for past and present Government funding for the provision of BSL Interpreters, the educating of our community to be able to communicate, integrate with and respect their Deaf peers, indeed any other minority group, we cannot rely on Charities (as useful and needed as they are) and in my humble opinion it is the responsibility and duty of care of the Government/Establishment call it what you will.

BSL Sign Language classes are costly as their few Qualified BSL Tutors, as opposed to Interpreters, and Government is exclusively responsible for all Public Service frontline personnel.

These must be trained thoroughly and professionally, and protocols for refresher courses established. A charity cannot undertake this “Educational function” ongoing.

In this the 21st Century integration, diversity tolerance and respect for all our peers surely must start in children’s formative years. It is at this time their brains are like absorbent sponges, their inquisitiveness and natural instinct to emulate must surely point us in this direction.

BSL Sign Language is already being taught to children in schools at reception stage, it then becomes another natural language in their world and draws parents indirectly to share in their child’s upbringing and acquire an understanding of Sign Language. This latter phase is where perhaps a Charity could consider undertaking ‘evening workshops’ for parents.

It has been reported that studies have shown Sign assisted education assists in improved ability to absorb information.

Food for thought as we trend towards a more progressive, inclusive society in a fast changing world.

Sincerely,

Brugada Family,

Independent Deaf Champions.

05-02-2020 PANORAMAdailyGIBRALTAR