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Rebecca Puts Signing on a Global Stage

30 January 2017

A campaign to raise awareness of sign language which started at the James Paget University Hospital has reached millions of people around the globe – thanks to social media.

Learning Disability and Autism nurse Rebecca Crossley and Matt Perryman, a third   year student Learning Disability nurse with the UEA, launched the #getthenationsigning campaign on Twitter on 19 October. They posted a video of Rebecca using sign language to spell out “hello, my name is Rebecca.”

Now, just over three months later, the campaign has generated more than 18 million impressions and resulted in people from America to Australia post videos of themselves supporting the campaign by signing their names.

“The response has been amazing,” said Rebecca, who has worked at the James Paget for five years and lives in Yoxford.

“Initially, I thought it might get some followers in the hospital and other local NHS organisations – but it soon took off – and suddenly not just the nation but the world started signing!”

The campaign encourages people to use a commonly-used form of sign language to promote inclusive communication called Makaton and aims to make people think about how they communicate with others around them.

Makaton is the UK's leading language programme for adults and children with learning or communication difficulties. Its symbols are widely used in public buildings such as schools, hospitals, courts and libraries, to help people find their way around. 

“It’s easy to assume that verbal communication is everyone’s preferred method of communicating,” said Rebecca. “But for people with disabilities, such as hearing impairments, that may not be the case.

“By getting more people to learn the basics of signing, it can help ensure that we are more inclusive in the way we communicate. My hope is that one day it might form part of the national curriculum so that young children can learn to sign in their first year at school,” she added.

Locally, Rebecca’s campaign has received support from the players at Norwich City Football Club – while nationally, it has been picked up by supermarket giant Asda.

#getthenationsigning was inspired by the #hellomynameis campaign, launched by the late Kate Granger to encourage healthcare staff to introduce themselves to patients.

“Kate firmly believed that communication and introductions are not just about common courtesy, but run much deeper – and so do I,” added Rebecca. “Introductions are about making a human connection.”