Halloween Coffee & Crafts

CoCreate are back with us for another Coffee & Crafts at Bournemouth Deaf Club on Friday 27th October 2023. 10am-1pm. This event is free to attend and open to anyone in the d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing community. BSL communication and all materials provided. Come together in a welcoming space and get creative with the support of professional artists.


‘Signature Hall of Fame’!

Congratulations to Paul Kirby for being shortlisted from over 250 nominations to be included in the ‘Signature Hall of Fame’ of people who have advanced the cause of the Deaf Community and their rights of equal access to information, education and services in their own Language, BSL.

Paul was nominated by his employer, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for his unstinting efforts to develop Deaf Awareness and Sign Language skills across the CQC and care institutions, locally and nationally. In addition, he is much loved and admired by both the Dorset Deaf Community, as an inspirational role model & champion of BSL and the hearing community who have experienced his wonderful talent as a communicator and teacher. Many of us can testify to the influence he has had on our lives. He says he doesn’t want nominations and awards and that his reward is seeing the smiles on the faces of people that benefit from the exposure to British Sign Language and the gathering pace of its inclusion in the fabric of society, bringing Deaf and hearing people together in equal opportunity.

Well done Paul, and very best wishes for the formal recognition of your achievements at the awards ceremony in November, at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

Signature announce shortlist for Hall of Fame event – Signature

Celebrating Gwen Raggett MBE

We would like to share with you another celebration of the achievements of deaf and hard of hearing people in our local community and today we are featuring Gwen Raggett MBE. Now a spritely 96-year-old, great grandmother, Gwen has been hard of hearing all her life though perhaps only being diagnosed during her World War II service in the Women’s Land Army aged 19. At that time, she was a charge hand for a group of 100 girls from all over the UK, working and living together in Redenham House, Weyhill near Andover. She recalls that some of the girls thought her aloof and stuck up, probably, she now realises, through her not always hearing or responding appropriately to their conversation and the tendency like many deaf people to withdraw from group social interactions. Her astute mistress and mentor noticed her behaviour and correctly ascribed it to her hearing loss rather than indifference or snobbery. Remarkably Gwen had excelled at school, even winning a scholarship to Talbot Heath Girl’s Schools that regrettably her parents barred her from taking up, partly through being unable to afford the cost of her uniform but also through a belief that a young woman’s place is in the home as a housewife and mother rather than pursuing a short-lived career. Prior to her diagnosis and the issue of smaller transistorised body worn hearing aids on the NHS, Gwen had relied on her naturally acquired ability in lip reading to follow one to one conversation. She acquired her first hearing aid in her late 30’s at the same time her younger son, George was also diagnosed with a mild hearing loss as a result of the national screening program set up in the 1950’s to identify school children with a hearing loss and hence to provide technical aids and educational settings best suited to their needs. As with many parents of deaf children then and still today, she was tenacious in her efforts to ensure the best possible outcomes for him. Of course, she had her own experience of deafness and so, well understood the issues of living and learning with hearing loss and the pros and cons of body worn hearing aids. She used this knowledge to challenge the perceptions of both medical and educational experts who did not have this first-hand life experience. Looking back, she was an early champion of raising deaf awareness in these institutions.

An interest in family history research and with support from her daughter in law led to the revelation that there is a long history of hereditary hearing loss In her family beginning with her great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Court, born in Weymouth and who was herself described as “deaf from birth” in the 1871 census when she was 39 years old, as indeed were several of her children. Prior to the 1871 census this information was not routinely recorded. Many of Gwen’s close relatives, brothers, nephews, nieces, grand and great grandchildren also developed hearing loss, seemingly starting from about 7–8 years of age. Such hereditary hearing loss is relatively uncommon, when statistically, 9 out 10 deaf children are born to hearing parents with no family history of early onset of hearing loss. Her own family would no doubt provide an interesting genetic study for this condition. Since her Land Army days from 1943–1949, Gwen has continued to dedicate herself to the service of others in the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, WRVS, (now homogenised to RVS) for over 55 years and with her work in Bournemouth Libraries Home Book service and further voluntary work with Stroke patients and their families. In 2004 Gwen received the MBE from her majesty the Queen for these services and only stopped when the Covid pandemic gave rise to local council policy of not allowing people aged over 65 to work in these voluntary capacities. Despite this, Gwen has kept herself busy corresponding with former colleagues and customers by letter, phone and occasional visits to drop off birthday and Christmas gifts. She has also been in demand to recount her personal testimony of her life in the Land Army for various projects and exhibitions to show case and record this important history for future generations. Her personal story has been included in a recently published book; “Remarkable Women of World War II” by Victoria Panton Bacon, The History Press (ISBN 978 0 7509 9996 0) Her illustrated story can also be found on the Women’s Land Army website. Gwen keeps herself up to date with the work of Wiltshire and Dorset Deaf Association that she has supported since it’s inception in 2007 and their signing choir, Significance, donating equipment and funding for social activities. She is one of many deaf and HOH people who have enriched the lives of their own families and countless others they have met in their life’s journey, ever cheerfully and uncomplainingly. All of them role models for all with any level of hearing loss that they too can contribute to their local communities and wider society when given the opportunity.

Gwen Raggett MBE

Music to Deaf Ears

Congratulations to Evelyn Anne Riggs on passing her Music Teachers Board, Performance Keyboard Grade 1 examination, with Merit. Evelyn has been deaf since birth and struggled in early life due to a lack of suitable technology for her type of hearing loss and several failed operations from the age of 10. Then, 40 years ago in 1982, she became one of the first people in the UK to be fitted with a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA) that she says transformed her life.

Evelyn Anne Riggs

Evelyn has a deep passion for music and learned to play piano and keyboard. She has a beautiful singing voice and is a member of the voice choir at St Clements Church, Poole. Evelyn studied British Sign Language (BSL) part time, at Bournemouth and Poole College, achieving her Level 1 qualification taught by Paul Kirby and continues to develop her skills, attending workshops with WDDA. In 2011 she became one of the founding members of the WDDA Signing Choir, Significance and subsequently, St Clements Signs in Worship Group from 2015.

For both, she is always the first to arrive and last to leave at weekly practices and performances. Her determination, unruffled and stoical character makes her a wonderful role model for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in performing songs and music in these diverse and expressive forms. Well done Evelyn and all good wishes for your continuing development and sharing of your passion.

Learn to sign in 2022!

Thinking of a New Year’s resolution for 2022? Why not learn a new language: Not only will learning a new language help improve your communication skills, it will also look great on your CV and possibly open up some doors for you. There are 75,000 deaf people in the UK whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL) and 1 in 6 people have some form of hearing loss.

Rose Ayling-Ellis’ appearance on Strictly Come Dancing has led to a huge surge in interest in learning British Sign Language, with the Google search for learning sign-language seeing an increase of 488%!

Register now to attend our upcoming BSL Workshop running in Bournemouth. Suitable for anyone with an interest in learning BSL or wishing to practise their BSL in a safe, friendly and supportive environment.

Law changes open doors to deaf jurors

Sign language interpreters are to be permitted in jury rooms in England and Wales, enabling most deaf people to take part in jury service for the first time.

The planned legal change announced on Monday will amend strict rules that mandate only the 12 selected members of a jury can be present during private deliberations to also allow for a British Sign Language interpreter where needed.

While there is no specific ban on deaf people serving on juries, many have previously been found ineligible to serve or left to rely on lip-reading and limited hearing during private jury discussions.

Tune in to BBC Radio Wiltshire tomorrow morning (12/03/21) at 7:40am to catch WDDA Trustee, George Raggett, give our reaction to the news that the law has been reformed to allow BSL Interpreters to assist Deaf Jurors in jury trials.

104.3 & 103.5 FM I DAB bbc.co.uk/radiowiltshire

‘Make it Clear!’ Campaign Launch

Wiltshire and Dorset Deaf Association is pleased to announce the launch of our new ‘Make it Clear!’ Campaign to get clear panel face masks in to circulation to help prevent further barriers to communication for the d/Deaf and HoH community. 

We are working with NooN Masks & Apparel to distribute an initial supply of clear face panel masks (along with details of how to go about ordering more directly) to local businesses and service providers to help raise awareness of the communication issues caused by the wearing of face masks.

A supply of clear face panel masks will also go on sale (at a heavily subsidised price) direct to members of the d/Deaf and HoH community who need them for themselves and/or family members.  Please email admin@wdda.co.uk to register your interest and/or pre-order.

Join us in a VE Day 75 ‘Sign a Long’ at 9pm!

To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day this nation has been invited to take part in a singalong of Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime classic, ‘We’ll meet again’ that will be broadcast on BBC 1 at 9pm on Friday 8th May.

As we face some of the most challenging times since the end of the Second World War, now more than ever it is important to come together and unite.

Thanks to members of our award winning sign choir Significance, St Clement’s Signs in Worship Group and Sign Language students from Skills and Learning (Blandford) we will be giving you the chance to ‘Sign a Long’!  You can join us in your home at 9pm on Friday 8th May.  The signed video performance will also be broadcast on our Facebook page.

Signs in Worship

St Clements Signs In Worship Group (SCSW) was established in 2015 in an attempt to provide a uniform platform for using signs and gestures in worship, particularly for contemporary church music introduced by the musicians of the Worship Band led by Colin Crabb, who lead the family services here twice a month.

Jesus be the Centre performed by St Clements Signs in Worship Group

The group currently has 7 members led by George Raggett, a Trustee of Wiltshire and Dorset Deaf Association (WDDA), who has been teaching British Sign Language for 18 years and was encouraged to introduce signing in worship by Stuart Dimes, a curate at the time and also a BSL student of George’s back in 2002.

However it was only when WDDA established their signing choir, Significance in 2010 with Isobel Heaton, Evelyn Riggs and George from St Clements as founder members, that signing in worship became a regular occurrence for special services at Christmas and Summer Concerts in aid of Romanian Orphanages attending holiday camps at the House of Grace.

Significance have been competing at the annual Jersey Eisteddfod of Performing Arts since 2012 where Sign Choirs from around the UK are invited to perform 2 contrasting pieces.  Inspired by some of the contemporary church music introduced by the worship band at St Clements, the choir always included one in their performance.  In 2015 they performed a firm favourite at St Clements, “10,000 Reasons”, by Matt Readman and were thrilled to be judged overall winners of the Sign Choir section.  They have since gone from strength to strength and were winners again in 2017.

St Clements Signs in Worship group FB Page

The SCSW group has 4 members who are hard of hearing and are joined for practices by supporters who attend other local churches where signing is also used.  Though St Clements is not regularly visited by profoundly deaf people who use BSL as their first language, preferring instead to worship at their own churches, they do come for the special services.  The clergy, Worship Band and congregation at St Clements are very supportive of the extra dimension the group brings to worship and all are encouraged to join in.  We love signing songs together, using everything but our voice to express ourselves and glorify God and our Lord, Jesus Christ.

During the enforced closure of St Clements due to the Social Distancing measures introduced to combat the spread of Coronavirus, the group have been meeting up once a week on Tuesday morning using online video links to sign songs to share via social media, read scripture and pray for the needs of the world.  We would welcome anyone interested, to join us at any time, now or in the future – you do not need to have previous experience of signing.  Founder member Jan Clark and Sally Pierce both joined when they first began learning Sign Language and quickly made huge contributions to both SCSW and Significance choirs, just as our two newest recruits, Michelle Merrell and Roland Newborn are doing since they joined.  So come on…..

‘Raise your hands all you nations, sign to God the whole creation, how awesome is the Lord most high!’   

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