Students sign up to support improvements in accessibility at polling stations
University of Wolverhampton students have signed up to support City of Wolverhampton Council on a new initiative designed to improve accessibility at polling stations.
The Elections Act 2022 has introduced a range of new measures from May 2023, including the need for electors to show voter ID in order to vote as well as improved accessibility to support voters with a disability.
University of Wolverhampton students studying for Undergraduate degrees in British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreting and Deaf Studies have signed up to work as both general polling booth clerks and some will be National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) registered trainee interpreters, available at selected polling stations across the region. The students are Harriet Oulds, Tabitha Collins, Kirsten Banks, Lisa Dearie and Anna Pearce.
Laura Noonan, Electoral Services and Scrutiny Manager at City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We have been working with our working group with representatives from groups representing people who are deaf/hard of hearing, have visual impairments and learning disability. One of the suggestions made was to have British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters in our polling stations.
“We have 125 polling stations across the city so we are exploring how best we can support people with a disability and one of the suggestions was to invite people who have BSL skills to work as poll clerks and, because the University is renowned for its Deaf Studies/BSL degree courses, we thought it would be a great fit to invite students to be trained to work at selected polling stations. It’s also a great opportunity for students to earn some money and gain new skills as well as offering them a valuable experience in being part of democracy in action.”
Sarah Bown, Senior Lecturer for the BSL Interpreting and Deaf Studies degree & the Master’s degree Interpreting programme, said: “This is another excellent example of the students from our programmes continuing to fulfil our original 1993 mission statement by promoting greater equality through increased access and participation for Deaf people whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language. We are delighted to have this opportunity to support the City of Wolverhampton Council in this new development.
“The outstanding educational opportunities provided have resulted year on year in excellent levels of professional recognition and graduate employability. Our students are to be seen working nationally and internationally between deaf and hearing communities across all sectors of society. There is profound recognition of the value of this programme and the very significant impact it makes on the lives and opportunities for students, deaf people and the wider community they in turn engage with and serve.”
Kirsten Banks, final year student on the Interpreting: BSL/English degree programme, said: “We are all very excited to be taking part in the local democratic process in Wolverhampton. As BSL/English interpreting students we believe that providing accessibility to the Deaf community is truly the right thing to do and paves the way for future student participation.”
The University is celebrating 30 years of success in sign language interpreter education and training this year. The aim back in the 1990s was to “broaden opportunities for Deaf people, facilitate Deaf people’s access to Higher Education and raise Deaf awareness within all areas of society and work”.
The staff team, many of whom are the original and early members of the subject, comprise of deaf and hearing staff and demonstrate the highest concentration and level of professional qualification and recognition as interpreters, deaf translators, linguists, and the first programme to have a member with the prestigious International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) accreditation. All vigorously disseminate the pioneering teaching, learning and research carried out, regionally, nationally and internationally.
If you have any other queries, please contact Elections.Staff@wolverhampton gov.uk / 01902 55 5050 and find out more information about accessibility at polling stations on the City of Wolverhampton website.
Picture caption from left to right: Lisa Dearie, Sarah Bown, Kirsten Banks, Harriet Oulds, Laura Noonan, Anna Pearce, Tabitha Collins and Christ Latewood (holding the ballot box).
For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.