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Strictly winner putting deaf studies on the map


Avril Langard-Tang, Senior Lecturer for British Sign Language, Interpreting and Deaf Studies blogs about Strictly Come Dancing’s Rose Ayling Ellis encouraging the deaf community to achieve their dreams and inspiring others to further their education in deaf studies.

Actress Rose Ayling Ellis, has charmed the nation with her lovely personality and success in Strictly Come Dancing. As the first deaf contestant to ever win the competition - this has been amazing and rendered me speechless to say the least.  

Approximately 11 million people tuned in to watch the BBC series from beginning to end and there has been a great social media presence on discussions and views about Rose.  

To quote Rose “I have no problem with being deaf, it is the society that makes it hard for me” - this is a statement that rings true with me as well as many in the deaf community. Rose has hit the nail on the head, there are many barriers, in education, health, lack of availability of interpreters, etc. 

As I watched Rose, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life and consider the barriers I experienced. One example is the curriculum options; music was an option at the mainstream school I attended but I was told that as a deaf person, “I could not do it.” However, with Rose’s amazing achievement, it shows that actually, deaf people can do it! She really has been and is a vital role model for all.

In October, when the series started, Google searches for interest in British Sign Language rocketed by 488%. This is evidence that this rich language of ours should be taught as part of the national curriculum. It was so incredible to see the other contestants, presenters and judges using some basics of sign language in their comments. The impact of Rose being involved in Strictly Come Dancing is far-reaching. She has brought the deaf community and sign language into the public arena. 

The real impact came in the couple’s choice week, the music was silenced partway through the dance – giving the majority hearing audience an idea of what it is like to not hear any music. This was a captivating and awe-inspiring moment for everyone. 

On behalf of our team here at the University of Wolverhampton, I would love to add our congratulations to Rose and express how proud we are of her – well done Rose!

Thanks to Rose’s example and her journey through Strictly, she has inspired many to study sign language.  Here at the University of Wolverhampton we have a range of modules which explore deafness and sign language, with strong links to the deaf community. To find out more about the courses on offer click here.

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