Headlines: May 9th, 2007



West Midlands Fire Service has become the first in the country to include sign language versions of vital safety messages on its website. The site has been revamped to include video clips of television presenter Nikki Stratton using British Sign Language to put across messages to members of the deaf community for whom BSL is their first language.

As well as working on TV, Nikki, is a partner in a Wolverhampton-based company which helps public sector bodies and businesses to improve the way they communicate with deaf people. The new West Midlands Fire Service site also carries pictures and written text to support the sign language messages. The new site was launched at an event attended by members of the deaf community and representatives of a wide range of organisations.

It is estimated that in the West Midlands, there are 411,000 people affected by hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. Clive Robinson, West Midlands Fire Services Deaf Community Link Officer, said: “We worked closely with the deaf community to identify their needs and to change the way the Fire Service operates in order to better serve this area of our community.”

Mr. Robinson said the new pages were an important part of the service’s work looking at hard to influence groups. Other measures to get safety information across to them include the establishment of a focus group to help identify issues and the fitting of specialist smoke alarms for deaf and hard of hearing people, as well as BSL courses for staff. The service is also planning to produce a BSL Fire Safety DVD.

Nikki and business partner Maria Bueno Del Carpio, who are both deaf, run Zebra Uno, which has worked with a number of organisations, including local authorities, to improve staff awareness of the needs of deaf people and to provide BSL interpretation and training.