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Wednesday 24th March BBC2 11am

SH Line Producer | 19:11 UK time, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

On today's show Radha took a day-trip to Cardiff to check out some new technology aimed at improving access for Deaf visitors to Cardiff Castle.  With history at their fingertips, BSL users can do a personal tour around the Castle at their own pace holding their own BSL console.  


Cardiff Castle is one of Wales' leading historical attractions.  During 2000 years of history, the Castle has been a Roman Garrison, a Norman stronghold and in Victorian times was transformed into a gothic fairytale fantasy.  Excavations inside the boundary walls suggest that the Roman legions arrived in the area as early as the first half of the reign of the Emperor Nero (A.D. 54-68).  The Normans concentrated their efforts into defensive works building a 'motte', or mound, 40 feet high, and surrounding it with a moat.  A timber stockade built on top gave shelter and protection to the wooden buildings which housed the lord, his household and his garrison.  In 1865 Lord Bute invited architect William Burges to present a report on the state of the Castle; it was the beginning of a great partnership that was to last for sixteen years, and the Castle was transformed into a Neo Gothic dream palace.   For more information follow the link below:




We took to the skies with one of the UK's few deaf pilots to find out about the obstacles he overcame in order to pursue his childhood dream.  John Donovan has been flying since he was a teenager.  There are challenges for all pilots but particularly for deaf pilots.  Communication in the cockpit, with control towers or other pilots via radio is very difficult if you can't hear what's being said.  This means flying in controlled airspace, e.g. large busy airports, can't be done as it relies heavily on radio communications.  Fortunately though small airfields don't always require pilots to use radios so deaf pilots like John can fly with no problems.   John can also make what's known as a blind call.  A blind transmission is where other people can hear but the pilot can't hear them.  Though if there was an emergency, because he couldn't radio for help, John would have to rely on his skill and experience to land safely.


We also continued our journey tracing the development of British Sign Language, picking up the story just as sign language has been banned from the classroom. 


Following the Conference of Milan (1880), a Royal Commission was set up by the British government to investigate which teaching method was the best, sign language or oralism.  The Commission travelled around Europe and Britain and met with deaf and hearing teachers.  After much research the commission decided in favour of the oral method - it should be made available to every child in Britain and sign language banished from the classroom.  As a direct result of the Royal Commission's decision, and in an attempt to defend the language and use of signing in education, The British Deaf and Dumb Assoc (BDDA) was set up in 1890.  School culture also changed at this time.  Deaf pupils were separated into those who might benefit from oralism and those who would not.  Teaching methods involved the teacher every day painstakingly demonstrating the sounds through vibrations and the child arduously copying them again and again.  For many the classroom became a daily struggle to understand and there's evidence to suggest that deaf literacy declined as a result.


Although sign language was frowned upon in schools, outside of education sign language thrived via deaf clubs and the missions set up in the 19th Century.  Thanks to them sign language continued to flourish.   The BDDA developed strong links through sports, and with new and easy transport links, a deaf network began to form as deaf people sought to spend time together.  It's though these deaf clubs that deaf culture went from strength to strength.


Next week Clark Denmark concludes his journey bringing the story of BSL right up to date with the campaign for BSL recognition.




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