IN 2016 Jamie Stonier decided to set out on a new venture with the aim of helping to remove barriers faced by people with hearing impairments.
The 31-year-old, with the help of his wife Sarah, started to hold sign language workshops within the community and now holds regular classes – which are free for the public to attend. The classes, which take place at St John Church, in Burslem every second Saturday, are run voluntarily by Jamie under the banner – Jay BSL from 10:30am for one hour.
“We’ve had amazing responses from people who have come to our classes and there are some reviews from people on our Facebook page. They love it and are very appreciative that I’m doing it,” says Jamie. We have all people of all different ages and backgrounds – such as some people are learning to help with their work and some people are doing for their children or grandchildren, and they are all doing a fantastic job.”
Jamie was born deaf and has experienced first hand the difficulties experienced by someone with hearing impairments which is what instigated him to start the classes three years ago.
“I was born deaf and I learned sign language from my childhood friend, who is fully deaf and he taught me,” said the Steelite International warehouse operative.
“I went to Hilltop Primary School, which was in Burslem but is now no longer there and at the time the school had lot of deaf children. I grew up with my friend learning sign language and I was able to communicate with my friend.”
Jamie adds: “I think it’s very important to learn sign language. I’m doing sign language classes because it’s my passion to help people as I struggled to communicate with people when I was younger. I don’t want any one else to go through what I did when I was young and I want to break the communication barriers in shops, companies and family homes too.”
Emma Kemp, of Birches Head first attended one of Jay BSL’s classes in February 2018 and has continued to learn ever since.
“I’d always found British sign language (bsl) interesting but had never been overly motivated to go out and learn it until my cousin gave birth to a wonderful little girl who is deaf – profoundly deaf in one ear and supported with an hearing aid in the other ear,” said Emma.
“This motivated me and gave me a very good reason to go and learn sign language, so that I had a good way of communicating with my cousin’s little girl.”
Emma has found the classes have proven to be very beneficial and added: “I’ve learnt how to sign lots of different words and we are now starting to use them in sentences so that we can have a conversation. These classes are important as it gives you a way to communicate with people that can’t hear you or have no verbal communication. Jay is also a fab teacher who is patient and takes the time to understand what you’re struggling with and finds ways to help you understand bsl better. I’ve found new friends with Jay and his family.”
High school teaching assistant Rachel O’Brien, of Audley first went to a Jay BSL class in January 2019 and has found the classes to be invaluable.
“I have learned basic communication which is really important if you are in the company of a hearing impaired person,” said Rachel. “We do have hearing impaired students at the school I work at. They have a signer with them but it’s nice to be able to communicate with them. Also, if I am aware someone uses sign language then I try to use what I can to make communication easier. I also teach what I learn to my 8-year-old daughter who loves learning it, especially the different animals. I’m hoping to take her to the sessions when she is a bit older. It really is important because ultimately it is a universal language and it is inclusive to everyone.”
Jamie Stonier set off on his voluntary venture in 2016 and is now hoping to reach a broader audience with his classes in the future.
He said: “I’m hoping to grow Jay BSL in time. I’m hoping to teach more businesses some basic sign language so deaf people can have the access for help. I really enjoy it and it’s something which is very important to me.”
For information on Jamie’s classes follow his Facebook page. **Please note there will be no classes during September 2019 but Jay BSL will return in October.**
**Follow Jay BSL on Facebook here.**