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Project Manager champions Deaf awareness training

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Project Manager champions Deaf awareness training


Published by HearFirst for HearFirst in Education and also in Communities, Health, Housing

A manager who has recently been appointed to lead a three-year pilot project to train and support new Deaf Health Champion volunteers across the North West, has praised the training that she received earlier in her career to help her secure her dream job.

Joanne Slater, 36 from Wigan has been appointed as Project Manager by UK Council on Deafness to lead a team that will set up the Deaf Health Champions project.

The project, which is managed by national healthcare charity, Sign Health has been made available after receiving a grant of £592,000 from the Department of Health’s Health and Social Care Volunteering Fund (HSCVF).

The aim of the project is to improve personal experience, equality of access, choice and control over health care for deaf people, particularly sign language users. To achieve this, the project aims to train and support volunteers to make positive changes to the way in which health and social care services are delivered to Deaf people.

Partners involved in the pioneering project are UK Council on Deafness, Sign Health, Manchester Deaf Centre, Merseyside Society for Deaf People and Deaf Vision Cumbria.

Joanne took up her new role at the beginning of January and joins the company from Salix Homes, an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) based in Salford.

It was at Salix Homes where Joanne was first introduced to basic sign language skills after her employer encouraged members of staff to attend an in-house training course.

At the time, Joanne had an awareness of BSL but had not any direct experience of using it to communicate with tenants.  She first started learning sign language after attending an introduction to BSL and deaf awareness course back in 2009.

She said: “The course just felt natural and I got a good feel of the language.  I think what was also beneficial was the fact that the tutors who delivered the course were, themselves profoundly Deaf so not only did you learn the language, you also learnt the culture too.”

The course, which was delivered by award winning workplace training and consultancy company HearFirst, aimed to help staff understand what deafness means and gave them new skills to communicate with Deaf tenants more effectively. 

After utilising the skills and information that she learnt from the course to engage with tenants and residents, Joanne continued to study with HearFirst and successfully gained her Signature Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications in BSL, which Salix Homes supported.  She has now nearly completed her Level 3 qualification, which she organised herself and praised the training that she received during her time at Salix Homes to progress her career and secure her latest career move with UK Council on Deafness.

Joanne said: “My interest in learning BSL started with the in-house course delivered by HearFirst.  I didn’t realise then that the course would lead me on a career path of where I am today.  It’s a really exciting opportunity for me and I am looking forward to helping the Deaf community across the North West to volunteer within, get involved and help to influence the new healthcare structure.

“Many BSL users are excluded from health and social care decisions so part of the project is to enable volunteers to join representative and consultative bodies such as HealthWatch.”

Julie Ryder, Director and Founder of HearFirst, said: “I would like to congratulate Joanne on her new role at the UK Council on Deafness leading this exciting project for Deaf people.

“It is pleasing to hear how our training influences delegates to further develop their skills and experience and Joanne is a shining example of this.  Our aim at HearFirst is to deliver training that will result in real changes being made for real people and I would like to wish her all the success in her new career.”

HearFirst provides a full range of equality & diversity training courses to organisations across the UK.  For more information on Deaf, disability awareness and BSL training, please contact Julie at HearFirst on 01706 872816 or visit


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