Professor takes vow of silence in support of deaf community

Graham Turner at Heriot-Watt raises awareness for Sign Language Week

March 21, 2014

It has been said that certain professors love the sound of their own voice.

It is an allegation that cannot currently be made about Graham Turner, director of research and chair of translation in the School of Management and Languages at Heriot-Watt University, who has taken a week-long vow of silence to raise awareness about the British Deaf Association’s Sign Language week, which runs until Sunday.

Professor Turner is blogging about his progress, and in one post he explains the motivation behind his decision to clam up.

“The point is to express solidarity with the Deaf British Sign Language community across the UK,” he writes, accusing the government of overlooking the needs of deaf people.

“The point is to say we have had it up to HERE with your disrespect for our language, your neglect of our children’s rights, and your unwillingness to listen when we tell you your policies are not working.”

Professor Turner is backing the demands of a BDA-backed lobby which is calling on ministers to guarantee the right for deaf people to have interpreters in healthcare settings, improve deaf people’s access to work, and highlight the need for language and communication support in everyday life.

He says the deaf community wanted the right to live secure and culturally rich lives “and to pass on this heritage to deaf children – even those born into hearing families”.

The week-long vow of silence is not without its challenges for an academic – even one who is fluent in sign language. A guest lecture has already been arranged to cover his teaching responsibilities, and all of his PhD supervision meetings this week will be carried out using sign language.

We called Professor Turner for a quote, but he declined to comment.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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