New sign language words to describe solar system

Sign language New signs have been developed to describe the solar system through sign language

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A series of new signs have been created to help explain our solar system in sign language.

In a project funded by the Scottish government, more than 90 signs have been especially created.

Start Quote

They have created signs for each and every planet.... it's fantastic to see it portrayed in a visual means”

End Quote Gerry Hughes Deaf sportsman

Until now there have been no specific signs in British Sign Language (BSL) for astronomical terms, planets and stars.

The new signs were revealed at an event at Linlithgow Burgh Halls and received a positive response from the public.

Tania Johnston, senior public engagement officer at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, explained: "Until we created these, people had to finger spell the planets. People know what the planets are but they don't really get an idea what they're like."

"It was definitely about making it accessible to the deaf community and BSL users but also to make sure that the signs had visual aspects to them, that really got across the different concepts."

'Visual means'

The ambitious project was given an enthusiastic endorsement from Gerry Hughes - the first deaf man to sail solo round the world.

Super Nova sign The system is aimed at helping deaf people enjoy atronomy

He said: "It's brilliant to see especially created signs in BSL. They have created signs for each and every planet. It's fantastic to see it portrayed in a visual means."

The signs have been developed by the Scottish Sensory Centre along with Heriot Watt university and the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

Dr Audrey Cameron, Scottish Sensory Centre spokesman, said: "Deaf people have been excluded from enjoying astronomy. Previously if they went along to the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh they've been excluded from the information, the lectures and presentations that take place there.

"At the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh they want to have access for deaf people, that's why they're working with us - deaf scientists and deaf linguists - to create new signs."

The new signs are being rolled out and can be viewed online at the centre's website.

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