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Proposed use of British sign language at the Uni of Manchester causes a stir

October 19th, 2018 | by Neve McMahon
Proposed use of British sign language at the Uni of Manchester causes a stir
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A motion passed at the University of Manchester’s Student Union last week to swap the use of audible clapping in SU events at the university with jazz hands. Last Tuesday students voted to encourage the use of British Sign Language (BSL) to appeal to students with autism, sensory issues or deafness in the hope these events will be more accessible for people with disabilities. SU access and liberation officer Sara Khan lead the motion as she established the reasoning behind the decision to replace clapping, ‘’We understand that some people may be more comfortable to continue using it- but we are keen to make our events more accessible and inclusive for all.’’

The union spoke out about not limiting this motion to SU events as they wish to expand throughout the university, “to encourage student groups and societies to do the same, and to include BSL clapping as part of inclusion training.’’ The BSL would be most likely used at democratic events rather than sport or production. The union once again prove they are standing up for their students, ‘’inclusivity is one of the students’ union’s founding principles. We recognise that minority groups are underrepresented in political environments and we are working to address that.’’ It is no surprise that swapping clapping with the use of jazz hands has been done before, Khan herself illuminates that jazz hands, “encourage an environment of respect,’’ whilst it has existed as a policy since 2015 at the National Union of Students. The NUS said, “We should all aspire to improve our public spaces so that all members of society feel comfortable and able to contribute fully.” This stimulates the discussion, could this motion be implemented at other universities or in fact other public spaces?

 Sara Khan was ready for the challenge as she addressed the mass of criticism directly, ‘’We are not banning audible clapping.’’

There is a colossal lack of support on social media for this decision, particularly Twitter, Piers Morgan frankly appalled at this motion, ‘’Britain’s losing its mind,’’ the university student’s union were simply not prepared for the mass of public interest in their decision. Notably from renowned papers such as the New York Times and The Guardian to name but a few. This motion has even attracted the attention of Jeb Bush, the brother of the former US president George W Bush through his tweet, ‘’Not cool, University of Manchester. Not cool.’’ Yet Sara Khan was ready for the challenge as she addressed the mass of criticism directly, ‘’We are not banning audible clapping.’’ A mixture of reactions came from students of the university itself, Nico, 23 said, ‘’ If it makes life easier for some people to change it, then change it.” Whereas an unnamed student said, ‘’The world has gone mad.’’ These criticisms are frankly undermined by the reaction of those who live with these disabilities. Piers Wilkinson, the disabled students’ representative at The National Union of Students has an auditory processing disorder and is also on the autism spectrum. His reaction to the Manchester motion, ‘’ It’s the most reasonable action that can be taken to include disabled people. It’s disheartening to see the general lack of awareness of it.”

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