“I was impressed with the staff in the Development and Partnership department, as they had been on a course to learn basic Deaf awareness and BSL skills. The staff made me feel very welcome”
Before starting the internship, I was already passionate about history. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the qualifications to study archaeology as I wanted to, as the school didn’t think I would be able to do it. Since I’ve lived in Scotland for 5½ years, I have been a member of Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and I was studying Scottish history. I’m particularly interested in Mary Queen of Scots, the Stone of Destiny, Robert the Bruce and Bonnie Prince Charlie; really anything linked with Scottish history.
Two years ago, the BSL tours were set up in Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, and Linlithgow Palace. When I go to a BSL tour I feel the building and the history come alive, and I can learn more detail and expand my knowledge.
I attended a Deaf Heritage meeting and met Sally Gall who was working at Historic Environment Scotland. Sally and I were discussing how HES could expand its work into the Deaf community, and how it was quite difficult to achieve. At that time, I didn’t really understand, but it inspired me to apply for the internship.
I applied for an internship at HES through Inclusion Scotland and I had additional support from a BSL/English interpreter, arranged by Inclusion Scotland, to assist with the application form and at interview. I’m pleased to say I got the job.
I was happy to be working at HES which meant I could improve my knowledge of History. When I first started, I was impressed with the staff in the Development and Partnership department, as they had been on a course to learn basic Deaf awareness and BSL skills. The staff made me feel very welcome. I’m particularly amazed by my manager who has been very supportive with my work on the BSL plan. Through my work here, she has learned a lot about Deafness, and how to support Deaf people through BSL. (As English is not the first language of most Deaf people BSL, an official language of Scotland, is vital.) Without her support and encouragement, I could not have achieved what I have.
My role was as Equality Intern, supporting the production of the BSL plan. I was surprised to see the staff were really supportive of the BSL plan. I had a lot of one-to-one meetings with staff in different departments, talking about their roles and how they could integrate the Deaf community into their work. Staff were keen to take on board my thoughts and suggestions.
I also undertook BSL plan consultations with the Deaf community, to talk about the BSL plan, BSL tours, and collecting their views on what they would like from HES. A lot of people in the Deaf community were not aware of HES or the BSL tours, so I could promote HES services to them, while gathering their views. I think of myself as a bridge between the Deaf and hearing worlds.
I had the opportunity to use my time wisely and set up BSL teaching sessions with HES staff. I can see the staff benefiting from this, as they can use BSL regularly with me. Some staff have never been on a course, but through seeing me every day they have developed confidence in communicating with me and learned some basic signs. Staff have also gained knowledge and confidence in working with BSL/English interpreters.
I hope that in the future I will be able to work with HES again, becoming a BSL tour guide and teaching staff more BSL.
Internship testimonial from employer: Celia Sweeny, Equalities Manager, Historic Environment Scotland.
“Historic Environment Scotland (HES) felt it was important to have a Deaf BSL user provide support to us as we developed of our British Sign Language Plan 2020-24. We turned to Inclusion Scotland who were providing fully funded internships as an access route into work. Working with Inclusion Scotland was hugely helpful in the recruitment and interviewing process. Throughout the internship, we had regular meetings to ensure that the experience was beneficial for Manjeet and also enabled us to achieve the production of our BSL plan.
Having a Deaf BSL user proved to be extremely important to us in gaining access to the Deaf community and to Deaf organisations. Although Manjeet was working in HES primarily on the BSL plan she did so much more. As part of her learning about HES and speaking to various people in different Directorates she improved her knowledge of HES, which is a large and complex organisation and at the same time she was generous with her knowledge and experience as a Deaf BSL user. This helped people enormously to understand the challenges faced by Deaf people when BSL is not readily available.
As well as liaising with the Deaf community as our plan developed, she shared her BSL skills with interested employees and ran a number of BSL sessions, which everyone enjoyed and appreciated. From a personal point of view, I feel more knowledgeable about the Deaf community and it has helped me think about communications in a very different way. We are delighted that Manjeet enjoyed her time with HES and wish her the very best in her future.”
Inclusion Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government’s Equality Unit to deliver the National Disability Internship Programme “We Can Work”. 30 internships will be created for disabled people per year as per the Scottish Government’s A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People Delivery Plan.