They may have a huge array of qualifications between them in building trades and site management but the team behind the construction of a permanent new home for the New Deaf Academy are going back to school to learn a new skill – sign language.
People from Midas Construction jumped at the chance to learn more about Deaf Awareness, so they will be better able to communicate with Academy students and staff during the project.
It meant going back to the classroom to understand more about Deaf Awareness as well as learning commonly-used signs, words and phrases under the expert tuition of British Sign Language Community Officer, and former Deaf Academy student, Nikki James.
Midas Construction, part of the Midas Group, began work earlier this year on the £11 million new Academy, which is set to open in April 2020 on the seven-acre former Rolle College site in Exmouth.
The project marks a momentous chapter in the history of the 193-year-old Devon-based charity and will deliver a bespoke facility accommodating up to 80 residential and day students aged 5-25 from all over the UK.
Steve McShane, Senior Project Manager at Midas Construction, said: “As a regionally based business, one of our key aims is always to work closely with the communities in which we operate.
“This is something the team was very keen to do out of respect to the Academy and its pupils, not only to enable us to better communicate with people coming to site, but also as a way of helping us to maintain the safety of visitors.
“It has been something which we have all found fascinating and useful and we are very grateful to the Academy for taking the time to share an insight into the language which will be used so widely here once the facility is completed.”
Deaf Academy Marketing Officer Nicki McCaskie said: “We’re delighted that staff at Midas are interested in learning about Deaf Awareness and British Sign Language (BSL). We’re excited to introduce Exmouth to the Deaf community and culture as part of our move, and it’s brilliant that Midas are getting involved.
“Our BSL Community Officer Nikki James is a native sign language user and a fantastic communicator. Her role involves not only teaching basic sign language, but also educating local groups about Deaf Awareness and how to ensure inclusivity for deaf people. Deaf Awareness sessions give people simple but useful tips for communicating, such as remembering not to cover your mouth when conversing with a deaf person, as this inhibits lip-reading.
“BSL is a complex language, but by learning a few signs and thinking about how to improve communication, companies like Midas can really help make the difference when it comes to strengthening links between communities.”
Trainee Site Manager Ben Tolan took part in the session. He is working at Midas Construction on a placement year as part of his degree in Construction Management and the Environment at the University of Plymouth.
He said: “The session was great fun, it was different outlook on how to communicate with people in other ways. I am definitely going to give sign language a go to speak to students when they next come to visit the site.
“The new Deaf Academy build is a fantastic project and one that the whole team is proud to be a part of.”
Photos by Theo Moye