Chats with Dr Audrey Cameron – the first Deaf Doctor in Scotland

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Charlene Dolan from Deaf Roots & Pride – BDA Scotland had the opportunity to interview Dr Audrey Cameron CChem MRSC. Dr Audrey Cameron gained her chemistry degree at Paisley University and then went to the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, to do her PhD. She has been profoundly deaf since birth and due to her hard work, became the first deaf doctor in Scotland.

Transcript of BSL video:

Charlene: Hello! I’m Charlene and having just finished our BDA ‘Dream Big’ event, I wanted to catch Audrey Cameron and chat to her about her role and what she does. Hello Audrey!
Audrey: Hello! Thank you for inviting me. It’s exciting – do ask your questions!
Charlene: Tell us about your role, what do you do?
Audrey: I have different roles but my main role is as a scientist. That’s at Moray House where I set up glossaries. These glossaries are where we agree the different signs for science, maths, and so on. Sometimes, schoolteachers don’t know the sign for particular terms so glossaries of signs are helpful to them. I manage that project.
Charlene: So, is it just you working on these glossaries? Or, are others involved?
Audrey: No, I manage the project. There’s actually a pool of 26 Deaf scientists, teachers who work with Deaf children, Deaf mathematicians and sign linguists. We have to pair scientists with sign linguists to develop new signs because both must agree the new signs.
If we were working on biology, we’d bring in people who were knowledgeable about that subject. We don’t’ bring in all 26 of the group. So, whoever is knowledgeable would come into the working group for Biology, develop new signs and put them on the website. We do the same with Maths, drawing from this pool of 26 people. They all have degrees or higher, such as Ph.Ds. Some have a Ph.D. So, they’re pretty knowledgeable and they also know about teaching Deaf children which is important.
Charlene: How often do you meet and what happens?
Audrey: It depends on when we get funding from the sponsor. I organise a weekend workshop – usually two full days and that’s because the group work full-time in their own jobs so it’s better to get everyone together on a weekend. They come to Edinburgh though we have met in Derby too. It’s a very intensive weekend where we discuss the signs, have heated debates, question the signs being suggested, but beautiful signs come out of it! What’s important is that everybody agrees the sign, and if there’s still some doubt, we ask why and see how we can make it better. Then we move on to the next word.
Charlene: Is this for all over the UK?
Audrey: Yes, the pool is from all over the UK. The people involved are not just from Scotland, but all over the UK.
Charlene: Where can we find the glossaries? How can we access them?
Audrey: Well, there are two ways. One is via the SSC – that’s the Scottish Sensory Centre -website. You can just google ‘SSC Glossary’ and you’ll get a list of them. There are six different subjects – Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Geography. Geography is the newest one and lovely to do! We went to different places like a river and filmed ourselves signing “This is a river!” We did the same up the mountains! It’s good for children or people who, when confronted with a word they’ve never seen before, to see the sign for it but better still to ‘see’ the real thing so the video clips are helpful for them. So, that’s one way – through the website. The other is through a new app which will be launched next month.
Charlene: Oh, that’s great! So it’s not available yet?
Audrey: Oh, you can download it now but the grand launch will be next month.
Charlene: You mean you can type it in and it’ll pop up?
Audrey: You can go to the Apple app shop, you know, the ‘A’ icon, or, via Google player and download ‘BSL education’. Then you can type in the word, see the sign, what the word means and then see a visual or real life experiment. I’ve got it right here on my ‘phone!
Charlene: And these glossaries are for adults, children, both groups…
Audrey: All ages!
Charlene: That’s good.
Audrey: We started at school level because we needed to establish a base, the foundations if you like, to make sure the concepts were understood, and then moved onwards and upwards. I’ve met people who used the first glossaries when they were at school and who are now at university! Wow! I’m very proud that our work has helped them. We develop signs linked to concepts. We don’t pick a word and say ‘What’s the sign for this word?’, agree it and then move on to the next word. We don’t do that. We pick a topic and focus on that one topic which might have lots of different terms.
Charlene: So, if it was Biology, it would be signs for parts of the body…
Audrey: We always strive to make sure the signs all link up. Let’s take a small example, ‘mass’, which is everything, us, these structures, this furniture, etc.. Everything is made of ‘mass’. So we agreed this sign for ‘mass’.
Charlene: Interesting!
Audrey: Now, take something else, like ‘weight’. There’s a sign for it to denote ‘heaviness’ but we have a different sign which is linked to this concept of the ‘force’ on the ‘mass’. The force is ‘gravity’ so we have this sign for ‘gravity’. Putting ‘gravity’ and ‘mass’ together gives us this sign of ‘weight’ which fits the concept of gravity pulling down the mass. It’s good for children to understand that ‘mass’ is [always] the same and ‘gravity’ is the force of it towards earth [the ground] – the ‘weight’. But, on the moon, the gravity is less. The ‘pull’ is less strong. Remember those slow-motion runs or jumps? That’s because the pull is less than it is on earth. Here, we land with a thud!
Charlene: Oh, I’ve learned something new today!
Audrey: And that’s why we have this sign for ‘weight’!
Charlene: That’s great!
Audrey: We try to link all the signs up with the concept. That’s always our aim – understanding the concept. We want more and more Deaf people to become scientists!
Charlene: it’s a popular topic! Thank you for sharing your expertise.
Audrey: You’re welcome.
Charlene: Thank you.