Experts create a new glossary of digital terms in sign language

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A new glossary of British Sign Language (BSL) signs specific to digital skills and professions has been created.

Over 500 words and terms have been coined spanning IT, cybersecurity, data science and software development to help the deaf community gain access to qualifications and careers in one of the fastest growing sectors from the country.

The program was created through a partnership between Skills Development Scotland (SDS), Data Education in Schools, the DDI Skills Gateway and the Scottish Sensory Center (SSC).

A team of eight deaf people from across the UK, who are also technology experts, spent eight months with sign linguists to develop and test the new signs.

Ben Fletcher, a senior engineer at the Financial Times, was one of the team members who wanted to create a common language for deaf people in technology.

He said: “Throughout my life I have studied and worked in IT, but technology and BSL have often been a difficult combination. There is a huge list of computer terms, very few of which have dedicated and widely recognized signs, and others that I just had to make up. It was very frustrating.

“We now have a standard glossary that will really help deaf people in schools, colleges, universities and workplaces across the UK.”

Prior to the launch of this glossary, deaf people often had to spell out every letter of specialist terms used in the digital space. These new panels make it easier and more effective to communicate about digital skills and professions.

Popular tech words and phrases now covered include artificial intelligence, computing, cybersecurity, ethical hacking, firewall, data breach, data science, machine learning, and phishing.

Edinburgh School student Billy-Jack Gerrard is deaf and wants to pursue a degree in AI and computer science at university. He says the new BSL panels will change the lives of people like him.

“These signs will make a huge difference in terms of studying for the right skills for a tech job, but also actually working in the industry itself.

“Once embedded into the fabric of BSL, the consistent use of terms will make life so much easier, and in turn so much more inclusive, for Deaf people like me who want to pursue a digital career.”


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Phil Ford, Head of Digital Technology and Financial Services at SDS, added: “This is a brilliant project that we have supported without hesitation.

“This will help deaf people find jobs in tech while boosting diversity and inclusiveness in the sector, all with the ultimate aim of closing the skills gap in an industry that is vital to Scotland’s economy. .”

The full list of signs can be found on the SSC website, but Kate Farrell of Data Education in Schools says she’s keen to keep adding to the list.

She commented, “Like the technology itself, which is constantly evolving, the language that comes with it also needs to be updated. So, by its very nature, this BSL glossary will have to do the same.

“We therefore welcome the continued input of technologists, deaf or not, to ensure that we stay up to date with terminology regarding skills and jobs in technology.”


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