Staff at Sheffield bank learn British Sign Language to improve understanding of deaf and hard of hearing customers

Staff members at a Sheffield bank have started learning British Sign Language in a bid to improve their understanding of what deaf and hard of hearing customers experience.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 4:32 pm

The communication initiative is taking place at Metro Bank which says it prides itself on “being a community bank and works hard to support all its local communities.”

In the UK alone, there are over ten million people living with some form of hearing loss, whether mild or profound.

Staff at Sheffield Metro Bank, which is based on Fargate in the city centre, are learning from customer service representative, Sarah Cotterill.

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Sheffield Metro Bank colleagues sign British Sign Language
Sheffield Metro Bank colleagues sign British Sign Language

She said: “I am not BSL fluent, I just know a handful of signs but it is just something I am quite passionate about due to my mum being a special needs educator in a school.

"She always influenced me to use Makaton as much as possible and to learn it as a child to help me understand there are differently abled people all around you.

"Makaton is an assistive sign system used by children and adults with language difficulties to assist their speech, it is the signs taught by Mr Tumble on Cbeebies and in many primary schools across the country.

“I have been teaching a “Sign of the Day” in our morning meetings and ensuring we learn the signs related to any occasion or event we celebrate instore. We practise the BSL fingerspelling alphabet with each other quite a lot and whilst we are not in any way fluent, I think it is important to understand the experiences of the deaf and hard of hearing community and is a good way for our workplace to feel as inclusive as possible. We do have deaf customers and to be able to greet them and ask how they are in BSL feels the very least we can do to support them.”

The Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists highlighted that the rise in the use of face masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic makes it harder for people with hearing loss to communicate. Face coverings with a transparent panel over the mouth ensure that people can still lip-read through masks and these are the type of masks Metro Bank colleagues wear in store to help customers.