There were two reasons why we wanted to make this DVD. First, to preserve the memories of Deaf people who attended school at a time when they were sent to specialist schools for Deaf children. This system of schooling no longer exists and their experiences are unique to a particular period of educational history.
Much of what happened to them is not well known to the general public and we think many people will be interested to learn of their experience.
Secondly, we wanted to have on film the signs used by this particular generation of Deaf people. We write Deaf with a capital D to show that this group use British Sign Language. Other deaf children used speech, usually because they had more hearing, and attended ordinary schools.
We have included teaching ideas in this booklet to support teachers in their use of material from the First to Third stages of the Scottish curriculum. The topic of Deaf children’s lives in the past (1940s – 1980s on this DVD) offers children an opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, finding out about a minority community within Scotland and contrasting present day educational experiences with very different approaches from the past.
The period during which out participants went to school included the years of WW2 (1939 – 1945). Children attending schools in the cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen were evacuated to schools in the countryside. Irene Hall was one of the Donaldson’s pupil sent to North Berwick in East Lothian during this period (See DVD 2 First Day) and similarly, Sandy Brooks and others from Glasgow were sent to Dailly in Ayrshire (See DVD 1 Games and Fun).
In DVD 3 Boarders: Hamish Rosie mentions black-out blinds and others mention the darkness. During wartime, towns and villages would have been visible to German aeroplanes if the street lights and lights from houses and other buildings had been on, giving them a clear target for dropping bombs. So every window had to be blacked out by heavy dark blinds. If there was the slightest chink where light could shine through, the air raid warden would issue a fine. Street lights were not turned on at nights.
The majority of the people we interviewed were sent to a school for Deaf children- often quite far from where they lived – meaning they had to board. There they formed relationships with other Deaf people which would last a lifetime.
At least 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, so most of our interviewees’ families had no prior knowledge of deafness. Irene Wilson from Fife thought she would grow up to be hearing – probably because she has never met a Deaf adult. The small number who had Deaf parents came to school able to sign and shared this method of communication with the other children. This common communication together with their shared school-day experiences form part of the bond which Deaf people share. For many this is why they identify themselves as a linguistic community; that is a group of people who share a common language rather than a group of disabled people.
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