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Jo Sandy, of SignWise tuition, answers call after surge in demand for sign language classes in Pulham St Mary

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A mother-of-one is doing her bit to support the deaf community in south Norfolk by bringing sign language classes to the district.

Jo Sandy, who grew up in north Wales but has lived in Norfolk for the past 30 years, will be soon be bringing her British Sign Language (BSL) classes to The Pennoyer Centre, in Pulham St Mary.

She said she was compelled to start the classes in Diss after being contacted by a number of deaf or hard of hearing people in the area, who were unable to travel to similar classes in Norwich or Ipswich.

Jo Sandy will be running her classes out of the Pennoyer Centre. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021.
Jo Sandy will be running her classes out of the Pennoyer Centre. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021.

“I’ve had people from Diss and Harleston express an interest in classes before so I’ve taken this opportunity to reach out to people outside of my normal base in Norwich,” she said.

“It enables them to join a class without all the extra travel that going to Norwich would entail.”

Jo was diagnosed as hard of hearing at the age of nine and, by 37, had lost all of her hearing.

“I decided to learn sign language as a consequence of that,” she said.

“From the moment I started learning, I’ve loved the language.

“After losing my hearing, it meant I was able to have people around me again who I felt able to communicate with.”

After completing a teaching course with Norfolk Adult Education, she was encouraged by Norfolk County Council to set up her own business – SignWise Tuition.

She registered as a provider with Signature, a leading award body for BSL, and has been taking on students for seven years now.

Successive coronavirus lockdowns had stemmed the flow of students for more than a year, but, as the country emerges out the pandemic, Jo is urging people to go along, whether they are hard of hearing or not.

“BSL is a great language to learn,” she said. “The range of reasons for joining a class is very varied, from someone who is losing their hearing and people who like languages to people who wish to work within the deaf community.”

For more information on the classes, click here.

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