'I am very pleased BSL is visible in a senate chamber in the uk'

March 11, 2005

Judith Collins has made history as the first British Sign Language user to be elected to a university senate

Durham University British Sign Language teaching fellow Judith Collins is believed to be the first BSL user to become a member of a university senate.

Ms Collins, who is deaf and a native user of BSL, has been elected to a three-year term on Durham's senate as one of the representatives of academic staff.

Senate proceedings at Durham are interpreted by BSL/English interpreters.

Ms Collins said that for this reason she felt no apprehension about her new position.

She said: "I am very pleased that BSL is now visible in a senate chamber for the first time in the UK. I am proud to be involved in this development. I feel it is important that the views of a BSL user and member of the deaf sign community are influencing and helping to shape the academic development of the university."

Ms Collins said that now BSL has been recognised by the Government as a minority language, she did not consider being deaf a barrier to an academic career. She has been a teacher and researcher at Durham for 14 years. She began as a teaching fellow at the university's Deaf Studies Research Unit.

There she joined a team that produced the first BSL/English dictionary. She said: "It took approximately 15 years. It was groundbreaking research and produced the first, from a linguistic perspective, record of one of this country's overlooked indigenous languages."

Ms Collins, a teaching fellow at Durham's Language Centre, is involved in developing a better understanding of deaf interpreting.

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