VIP Visits DAHIT Base
Clark Denmark gave an inspirational talk about his life, growing up as a deaf person from a deaf family living in Scotland. At the time he was in secondary school, deaf education was poor, and no other deaf child in his school was at his advanced level. He managed to teach himself what he needed to know in order to successfully pass his exams. At the age of 17, he went to America to study at the only deaf University – Gallaudet.
After graduating with a degree, Clark started working with IBM, using computers which were as big as rooms at that time, although he decided IT wasn't really for him. It was around then that he was asked by a small group of researchers, who were analysing BSL linguistics, if he was happy to be filmed signing. Clark asked so many questions about what they were doing, they invited him to join the project. He moved into a new stage in his career, where he fully immersed himself in important research on a topic very much close to his heart. This project became the dictionary of British Sign Language and took 15 years to develop and finally publish.
Clark is known as ‘the father of BSL teaching’. He set up the British Sign Language Training Agency for Deaf people to first understand, and then teach, their own language. At that time, there were few interpreters. However, these days’ lots of people are interested in learning BSL, and there are degree courses, MAs and PHDs linked with BSL linguistics and interpreting.
Clark delivered a presentation about BSL linguistics to the Year 12 deaf students, who have been studying the topic, before sharing more about his life and career with all of the deaf students and staff. Clark's wife, Carolyn, accompanied him and also gave a talk about her life growing up in a deaf family, going to a deaf school, and how she got into working on television.
Both speakers talked about how they had to develop resilience and never gave up learning, to find interesting work and chase their dreams. All the children were enthralled and learnt a lot about deaf history and culture.
Kim Davis, Lead Teacher of the Deaf, said “The Deaf and Hearing Impairment Team at Allerton Grange offers a specialist provision for deaf and hearing impaired students from across the City of Leeds. We support our students to learn BSL and access mainstream education, working holistically in school and with families to ensure they achieve their full potential. The talk from Clark and Carolyn today was inspirational, and shows our students that they can aspire to go to university and into the careers they want, regardless of the challenges they face.”