Updated: Thursday, 13th August 2020 @ 11:08am

Manchester’s Unsung Heroes: Deaf community prodigy goes on to become 'inspirational' sign language tutor

Manchester’s Unsung Heroes: Deaf community prodigy goes on to become 'inspirational' sign language tutor

By Helen Le Caplain

We’re subjected to the tyranny of unwelcome noise on a daily basis.

From the moment we’re jolted awake by the obscenely loud screech of an alarm we endure the roar of rush hour traffic, the tinny drums of iPods cranked up to the max and the incessant ringing of the office phone.

However after a weary commute home you can cross the threshold, shut the door and enjoy some well-earned peace and quiet.

But what if you were plunged into a world of permanent silence unable to hear anything?

This is something that award-winning British Sign Language (BSL) tutor, at Deaf Solutions 3, Gary Taylor has dealt with since birth.

He explained: “I grew up in a deaf family with deaf parents, aunts and uncles and within a wider deaf community.

“As a result, I saw first-hand the problems and barriers to life that my parents and other people had through hearing people not being able to sign. 

“I also saw that people teaching were not giving the best to people, that hearing people were coming into the deaf community with really poor sign language skills and poor deaf awareness.”

This, coupled with an aspirational family who encouraged him to follow his dreams, motivated him to establish his own BSL company.

He said: “My parents really inspired me as a child as I saw the struggle they had to take part in a hearing world at a time when access was not a right and social barriers were huge.

“I saw them parenting, working and socialising, buying a home, running a household and living their lives.

“They did all of this without any sense of being ‘disabled’ and taught me that being deaf is something to be proud of as a cultural identity.

“They also taught me to expect, provide and earn respect and to make my own way in the world without expecting handouts from others.”

Having had such a positive experience growing up Gary decided to share what he describes as a ‘beautiful language’ to people within the deaf and hearing community.

“Having my own business allows me to feel more in control over the overall quality of service that I’m able to give to learners.

“It also allows me to be flexible in responding to individual needs such as providing additional one-to-one sessions when required.

“I’m able to plan courses that will pick up on the future learning needs of past learners and this means that I’m able to continue influencing the standards of BSL.”

It’s clear that Gary, who recently scooped the award Signature North West Teacher of the Year Award for a second time, is dedicated to transforming the lives of other deaf people.

“The world has changed and is continuing to change for deaf and deafblind people, with more and more opportunities to overcome social barriers.

“Schooling has changed hugely for deaf and deafblind children and I would urge everyone to study hard and strive for what you want to achieve.

“It remains important to fight for what you want and it’s important that people are not afraid to expect proper access and support.”

This level of support for the deaf and deafblind community is lauded by students who recognise the passion Gary has for sharing his skills.

Student Stefan Levy, who is about to start his level 3 signing qualification, has nothing but praise for his teacher.

“Gary is nothing short of a total inspiration to all his students and a remarkable teacher. 

“Learning sign language is not an easy endeavour but his approachable manner meant no question was too trivial to ask – even if it was the eighteenth time that lesson someone had asked ‘How do you sign...?’

“I passed all my level 2 exams with Gary first-time round which gave me the confidence to go on to study level 3 which I will be starting soon.

“His passion for the language he teaches so well – BSL – came through in every lesson and his genuine interest in the needs of his students makes me proud to say he was my teacher.”

Despite the successes of the classroom it’s not always plain sailing as both Gary and his students still face daily challenges in the classroom.

He said: “BSL does not translate literally into English and there are many aspects of the language as a visual one that is difficult for learners that come from a spoken language to grasp.

“Also as a deaf person with English as my second language, my depth of knowledge is English is also often insufficient to be able to follow the point that learners may be trying to make, so communication is always a challenge.

“However this proves to be a really positive aspect of the learning process.”

Despite the occasional communication blip Gary takes great pleasure in teaching students BSL.

He said: “A student being successful is the best form of feedback I can receive as a teacher.

“It means that the experience has served its purpose and that the person has achieved their aims – this is highly fulfilling as a teacher.

“It also makes me feel that I have been able to positively influence the quality of communication between that person and other deaf people and that is ultimately my aim as a teacher of BSL."

When talking about the regional and national awards Gary said he was pleased to be recognised in the shortlist alone.

He said: “I found out about the nomination itself a couple of months ago and was really very happy about this, although I didn’t expect any more than a nomination!

"I was really shocked as I believed it was a once in a lifetime thing, so I was just so happy to have received another nomination.

“To have won it again is a wonderful feeling – I do allow myself to feel a real sense of pride.

“I think it’s important to accept it and enjoy it when people are kind about your efforts in life and I do feel really proud of the work that both I and the team in the business undertake

He added: “I would absolutely love to win the national award – it’s something of a dream! However, there is such a high standard of teaching and the competition is fierce as always.”

Looking ahead to the future Gary said he hopes to continue teaching others and encouraging others to reach their full potential.

He explained: “I love teaching and I get such a sense of fulfillment from doing a good job, so it’s very important to me to keep up to date and to bring the best overall experience to learners that I can.”

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