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.

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‘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 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!’   

Changes amidst the Covid-19 pandemic

Wiltshire and Dorset Deaf Association is working hard to keep our learners and teaching staff safe from the Coronavirus during these unprecedented times.

We have responded to the Covid-19 crisis by moving all of our BSL (British Sign Language) courses online in order to minimise the disruption to our BSL Conversation Class and our Level 1, 2 and 3 qualification courses.  We’ve launched our BSL classes in a virtual format and will be providing online courses instead of our usual face-to-face courses for the foreseeable future.

We understand that disruption to regular classes and the cancellation of exams will be unsettling for many of our learners.  As with any other language, it is important for learners to practise their BSL skills on a regular basis.  Thanks to our awarding body, Signature Deaf,  we have been able to offer all our Level 1, 2 and 3 learners FREE access to a comprehensive online library of video clips and support materials to help learners understand the assessments, develop vocabulary linguistics skills, and practice receptive BSL skills from wherever they are.  BSLHomework is accessible 24 hours a day on a range of devices.

THANK YOU to our BSL Tutors, Stefy and Lynn, and our current cohort of students for your commitment, resilience and willingness to adapt at this uncertain and worrying time enabling us to keep classes running throughout this health crisis.

We are also looking at the new possibilities open to us at this time.  With schools closed and families forced to stay at home we are launching an online BSL Family Signing Class for parents/carers with children aged 10+ who are interested in learning BSL together.  Sessions will run online on a Monday evening 6-8pm for 10 weeks starting on Monday 6th April 2020.  Thanks to George and Louise for coming together to offer this new class.

Stay at home.  Protect our NHS.  Save lives.


Communicating in a health crisis

With the UK now on lockdown it is more important than ever that people who are d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing are able to effectively communicate with others in order to access essential services and reduce feelings of isolation.
InterpreterNow is an online service that enables Deaf and hearing people to communicate with each other:
If you’re a support worker now having to work from home, concerned about how to maintain contact with vulnerable clients at this time, this article from Action on Hearing Loss should also help you.

Coronavirus and our Classes

In light of the new Government guidelines on social distancing we have made the decision to cancel all planned “Sign’n Time” Baby & Child Signing Sessions for the time being and postpone the launch of our new Family Signing Class.  New dates will be scheduled once it is considered safe for us to do so.

We are ALL now being advised to avoid non-essential use of public transport and to reduce our social interaction with other people to help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).  With this in mind, it would be irresponsible for us to continue our face-to-face, group classes that currently run at Bournemouth Deaf Club and Beaufort Community Centre.

We are keen to minimise the disruption to our BSL Level 1, 2 and 3 qualification courses whilst keeping our learners and teaching staff safe from the Coronavirus.  We are currently exploring methods of delivering our classes remotely via video conferencing and the use of online learning resources.

In the event of us having to cancel classes we will communicate with learners via email.  Regular updates will also be shared on our Facebook page and here on our website.

We understand this is a very worrying time for many of us, particularly older people, women who are pregnant and those who have a respiratory or compromised health condition.  If you are concerned please look to reliable sources of information and advice:

Visit the NHS 111 coronavirus advice website NHS 111 Online – About coronavirus (COVID-19) or make a video call via

The Department of Health and Social Care website is being updated daily with guidance and what the government is doing about the virus.

Thank you for your understanding.

Stay safe and stay well.


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