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SignPals sets sights on expanding friendship-matching service

SignPals sets sights on expanding friendship-matching service
7th June 2021 Ian Streets

A friendship service for deaf people launched a year ago in response to lockdown is now ion the lookout for funding to support expansion plans.
SignPals was set up by Anna Storm after the pandemic put paid to her plans to train deaf people as baristas. Rather than give up, Anna realised that the need for help was even more urgent.
Anna told the independently-run deaf blog and news side The Limping Chicken: “I was really aware that BSL signers are feeling even more isolated due to barriers to information, being home with non-signing family, not being able to see their signing friends.
“I did my research and started talking to people and realised that there is no national friendship-matching service for the BSL community, so I set about creating one!”
Anna was born deaf and has worked in the disability sector for more than 15 years.
She told The Limping Chicken: “I grew up oral in mainstream education and was always embarrassed about my hearing – I didn’t want people to know I wore hearing aids, and covered them up throughout my childhood,.
“When I learnt BSL I suddenly discovered this new community I had no idea about before, and it felt in many ways like home – I know this is an experience that a lot of other deaf people have.”
SignPals is a free service which asks individuals to complete an online application form and agree to community guidelines before they are matched with another deaf person. The service will contact pairings every fortnight to check in, before sending a final feedback survey after 12 weeks.
Anna said SignPals encourages participants to think creatively about how to get to know each other during the 12 weeks and afterwards.
She said: “For people who sign, there is that shared passion for the language and the culture – you don’t even need to state it, you can just feel it when you’re in a signing environment.
“It is that passion that brings together people from such a diverse range of backgrounds and ages – deafness affects anyone and BSL brings us together. It stops us feeling alone.”
The immediate focus is on signing up more people to Sign Pals but Anna told The Limping Chicken she is working towards developing a project which matches BSL learners with signers to improve their signing, or have deaf people coaching others on how to use services like FaceTime to keep in touch.
She said: “For all of that, we will need funding. If people have saved money on a meal out or even a bus fare in isolation and want to donate, we’re so grateful for that. Initial funds will go towards marketing and building the website. We’re determined that Sign Pals is now here to stay!”
To find out more about SignPals visit: https://www.signpals.org.uk/
To find out more about The Limping Chicken visit: https://limpingchicken.com/

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