Deaf woman praises fire service colleagues for learning sign language

A DEAF woman says her fire service colleagues have changed her life after more than 20 of them learned sign language.

Wendy Read started work for the knowledge management team at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service around 18 months ago.

Service staff member Wendy Read, from Locks Heath, is deaf and has praised her colleagues for learning sign language.

And when some of the staff decided to learn sign language to help cater for her needs, the mum-of-one, from Locks Heath, was both shocked and delighted.

Wendy, 39, said: ‘I was surprised when people started to learn sign language. It started off as a few work-related signals and then developed to a conversational level, some have taken it even further.

‘Now we can chat about holidays and interests, and the team have made me feel extremely valued and happy – I look forward to coming into work.

‘The way my colleagues have supported me makes me feel that I work with some very special people.

‘Their efforts have really changed my life and made me feel much more confident. In some jobs being deaf can lead to you feeling lonely and isolated.’

Wendy, a research and intelligence support worker, has been given additional help by her bosses Dawn Capp and Justine Gray who, when she started, immediately provided workshops for staff to learn sign language.

Su Whitlock, a colleague and analyst researcher, has studied British Sign Language (BSL) Level 3. She said: ‘As a team we are caring and empathetic and it seemed natural to do everything we can to make Wendy feel welcome.

‘HFRS encourages learning throughout the organisation, which not only meant people had the opportunity of taking up sign language but also meant Wendy has been able to develop new skills and attend courses.’

The fluency of her colleagues ranges from conversational to advanced, and people from other departments are now learning the communication method.

Councillor Chris Carter, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority chairman, explained: ‘Inclusion is at the heart of everything we do.

‘We pride ourselves on being the best and for that you have to keep the right people and get the most out of them.

‘We are delighted Wendy is so happy in her role.’

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