My View, Bobbie Roberts: Why our trust’s work is a sign of the times

Bobbie Roberts, chair of Trustees at Doncaster Deaf Trust, holding the 'Spread the Sign' flag.
Bobbie Roberts, chair of Trustees at Doncaster Deaf Trust, holding the 'Spread the Sign' flag.

In a few weeks a team from Doncaster heads to Europe to fly the flag for our town and the work we are doing to help deaf people from across the globe.

The team heads to Austria to meet with other European countries that are part of the Spread the Sign project. This important project is now in its seventh year and has developed a fantastic free online resource for deaf people to help them to communicate with other deaf people from different countries.

Spread the Sign is an international Leonardo da Vinci project, supported by the European Commission. The aim is to share sign languages from different countries via the internet. This self-learning tool is free to anyone.

The project is to improve our vocational students’ language skills when going abroad for work practice. Working together specialist organisations across Europe have uploaded vocabulary from a variety of vocational fields and topic areas into the dictionary, adding to its size.

We have been so proud to play our part at Doncaster Deaf Trust and we’ve represented the UK in developing the database which includes audio as well as 3D animation to the words. In recent years we’ve increased the number of languages in the dictionary beyond that of the EU. Spread the Sign is now global.

It features everything from baby signs to the national sign languages; Swedish, English (BSL), American English (ASL) German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Icelandic, Latvian, Polish, Czech, Japanese, Turkish, Austrian, Italian, Ukrainian and American Sign Language.

The overall ambition is to make sign languages accessible to everyone. Spread the Sign will help anyone needing quick and free access to sign language, be they a teacher, student, trainer, trainee or employer. Spread the Sign allows people to learn, compare and translate signs.

With signs in 20 different languages Spread the Sign covers common signs, vocational signs, sentences, numbers and the finger alphabet. We are continuing to develop this online resource and the team are looking forward to working with our partners at the meeting in Austria to plan what we can do to develop this online resource further and importantly to let people know it exists.

Doncaster has been home to a specialist school for deaf or hard-of-hearing people for over 185 years, so the town has a history to be proud of and thanks to this project is part of a project which will help people in the future.

Spread the Sign is the largest dictionary of its kind in the world. Visit Deaf Trust to find out more about Doncaster Deaf Trust.