"When colleagues used sign language... I realised the difference it could make."
Marvia Norman, Onboard Customer Service Assistant at Avanti West Coast, speaks of her delight that Euston is the first station in the UK to install screens with announcements in British Sign Language for deaf customers.
2 June 2021
When I was nine, I had a friend who was deaf. We always used to say ‘hello’ by waving and lip reading. While I did not know sign language back then, I did know the value of lip reading and a simple hand gesture. Because of this, learning to sign is something I have always wanted to do.
It wasn’t until working as a receptionist when colleagues used sign language to communicate with deaf people, that I realised the difference it could make. Their signing ability to help others made me go for it, so I enrolled on a British Sign Language (BSL) course when I joined the railway three years ago.
Achieving the BSL Level 1 Award has given me the basics to hold a simple conversation, such as communicating with deaf customers onboard our trains. Their reactions are overwhelmingly positive.
One customer told me: “It is amazing to find someone that signs. Don’t ever stop signing”. Another customer’s eyes lit up when I communicated to them using BSL. This propelled me to expand my knowledge of BSL, as I love helping others. It’s also close to my heart because of my childhood friend and my grandson, who has autism and was unable to communicate verbally for the first two years of his life.
"One customer told me: 'It is amazing to find someone that signs. Don’t ever stop signing'."
I hope to achieve Level 2 next year. My goal is BSL Level 3 and 4, so I can have two-way interactions in work and social situations. I’m absolutely ecstatic Network Rail have introduced BSL screens at Euston that interpret station announcements because I know first-hand what a difference using sign language can make. It’s so exciting that it’s being used prominently at a major station on our route.
Read more about Network Rail's launch of the UK's first sign language station announcements here:
To find out more about British Sign Language (BSL), visit: https://www.british-sign.co.uk/
Top left: Marvia at Euston Station
Middle right: Marvia's badge means "Keep Calm and sign BSL"
Bottom right: Marvia and Phil Whittingham, Managing Director at Avanti West Coast, by one of the screens at Euston
Video: Watch Marvia signing "Hello. My name is Marvia and I work at Avanti West Coast trains" at Euston: