Signature Awards

Two Fylde coast women are celebrating after being shortlisted for awards in deaf communications.

Signature, provider of accredited qualifications in sign language, has revealed the regional short-list for the 2011 Signature Awards, which includes Karen Watkins and Janice Crossland-Jones, both of Blackpool.

Mother-of-one Karen, 38, from St Annes, is studying for her Signature Level 3 British Sign Language (BSL) qualification at Fylde Coast BSL Centre, and has been short-listed for North West Learner of the Year.

Since 2009, Karen has become actively involved in the organisation’s wider activities and, in an attempt to support the wider deaf community, volunteers at two deaf organisations, has established a coffee morning for deaf people, and assisted individuals in the community.

Her commitment to improving the lives of deaf people marked Karen out to the judging panel as a potential winner.

Initially, Karen’s involvement was limited due to low confidence, but she says her confidence has grown and she uses her new confidence to support her peers.

She said: “I feel absolutely privileged to be part of the deaf community – I have made some wonderful friends both hearing and deaf. They have no idea what impact they have had on my life. I am extremely proud to be short-listed, not just for me, but for everyone I have met through my learning, because without them, I would not be on the shortlist.”

Signature chief executive, Jim Edwards, said: “Karen’s story is an example of how studying towards a Signature qualification can offer much more than just sign language skills. She has made a real contribution to the deaf community and I hope she continues to do this.”

And Blackpool teacher Janice Crossland-Jones has been short-listed for Teacher of the Year for the second year in a row.

Janice, who runs the Fylde Coast BSL Centre for British Sign Language (BSL) qualifications, was nominated by her students in both 2010 and 2011.

She has taught BSL for more than 18 years, and set up the Fylde Coast BSL Centre in 2007.

This year, Janice has also started a charity called Signing in the Community for local volunteers – holding support groups and coffee mornings for deaf and hearing people to socialise and find support with communication, as well as conducting outreach work to local businesses by offering free finger-spelling lessons, boosting awareness of deaf issues in the area.

Mr Edwards added: “In cases such as Janice’s, it is hard to overstate the overwhelmingly positive influence she has had on the lives of individuals and on the community as a whole.”