Helping people learn sign language at work

James Loveridge
May 6 · 3 min read

As part of the Deaf Awareness Week (4th to 10th May 2020), we at the FT would like to share a few things to raise awareness, share some work tips on how we work with deaf people. We also positively encourage an inclusive culture at work. We’ll also share a career journey written by one of the deaf people that work here at the FT.

The British Sign Language Alphabet Sheet for A-Z signs
The British Sign Language Alphabet Sheet for A-Z signs
The British Sign Language Alphabet

British Sign Language taster sessions

When I joined the FT, I learned that there were people running a regular British Sign Language taster session to share their knowledge of using sign language at work. I was positively encouraged and happy that people are keen to learn something new. I decided to assist them with this initiative, to further spread the knowledge of sign language within the company.

Maggie Allen & Amy Nicholson started with the fantastic work setting up and running those sessions which has enabled more staff to be more confident in using the basic signs to communicate with deaf people, whether at work or elsewhere.

In the recent BSL taster sessions, we have had regular attendees come back to improve and to help others learn and share tips on remembering how to sign. They also practice outside of the sessions, whenever they see someone else who has attended, or whenever they meet me or Ben Fletcher around the office.

The BSL taster sessions are designed to be a starting gateway for people to progress onto the Languages at Lunch courses initiative. British Sign Language is one of the languages that staff at the FT have the chance to learn through twice weekly classes and many now have a Level 1 BSL qualification or are working on becoming fluent at signing and able to communicate with Deaf people. There are already a few staff members that sign fluently and interact really well with us all at work.

The courses offer people the opportunity to learn a new language, which is great from a personal development perspective, but it will also benefit them in the long term as there are estimated to be 12 million people with a form of deafness and around 87,000 people will use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language. By learning the basic building blocks of the language, this opens up new opportunities for you to interact with Deaf people. For those that are currently working at the FT, please do let me or Maggie Allen know if you would like to be part of the future British Sign Language taster sessions!

I hope that this article helps other companies or organisations to consider running something similar so that people can learn sign language, not just for themselves, but for other Deaf people as well. Empowering people to run sessions like this creates a positive and inclusive environment. This is something that I am quite proud of, since the FT actively encourages individuals to pursue these initiatives.


Many thanks goes out to Maggie Allen & Jen Smith for proof-reading and their contributions.


This is part two of a three posts series for Deaf Awareness Week, the next one is all about communication tips with deaf people at work, or in any general situation. Keep an eye out for this!

A blog by the Financial Times Product & Technology…

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