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Strictly Come Dancing Inspires Deaf Signing Course For Teens

November 23, 2021

A charity that supports deaf people is to run a sign language course for teenagers after this year’s Strictly Come Dancing series sparked lots of interest.

EastEnders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis is the first deaf contestant in the BBC programme’s history.

Deafconnect in Northampton said interest in how the actor communicates had led to lots of inquiries.

It said it had given them the impetus to put on a course for young people.

Chief executive officer, Jenny Dawkins, said the casting of deaf actor Lauren Ridloff as superhero Makkari in Marvel Studios’ Eternals film had also raised awareness.

“We have wanted to do [this course] for a long time but this has kind of pushed us,” she said.

“Now is the time because it’s what everyone is talking about.”

Ayling-Ellis and her professional dance partner Giovanni Pernice have been praised throughout the series but last week, they paid particular tribute to the deaf community, while dancing to music by Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson.

Halfway through, the music cut out as the pair danced on, in order to show people what a deaf person’s world was like.

The charity said Ayling-Ellis had given people an “amazing insight into life as a deaf person”.

Ms Dawkins said it was “fantastic proof that a deaf person can do anything they want to do”.

“Not all deaf people can now dance, but our aim is to give all deaf people a chance to be fully included if they want to do something,” she said.

She said they had wanted to run a course for teenagers for a while, as affiliated British Sign Language (BSL) courses are not really aimed at young people.

Plus, deaf children were now encouraged to go to mainstream schools and the pupils want to communicate with each other.

The charity’s six-week after school course for 11 to 18-year-olds covers a lot of the basics and, while it was not a qualification, it acted as a taster for the affiliated sessions.

Ms Dawkins said there was a lot of interest in the class, which starts in January, and there they would have to start a waiting list or put on another class.

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