A SIGN: Auslan interpreter Alison Toft  at the Australia Day Ceremony  with mayor Simon Richardson.
A SIGN: Auslan interpreter Alison Toft at the Australia Day Ceremony with mayor Simon Richardson. Samantha Elley

A great sign to help the deaf

NEARLY 30 years ago, Alison Toft saw a performance of Theatre of the Deaf in Glebe and it changed her life.

"I fell in love with the language,” she said.

"I knew one day I wanted to teach dance to deaf kids.”

From there Ms Toft went on to learn Auslan, the official sign language of the Australian deaf community.

"In 2000 I started interweaving dance and Auslan together to perform at events,” she said.

"I didn't become an interpreter until 2010,”

As a hearing person with no immediate deaf family, Ms Toft said learning the language has given her a much better insight into

life.

"It has helped me grow as a person and I've gained a better understanding of the deaf community,” she said.

Ms Toft and other sign language interpreters are often at many official ceremonies across the Northern Rivers providing access, opening up the lines of communication for members of the deaf community.

She recently interpreted at the Byron Shire Australia Day awards at the Ocean Shores Country Club.

Even for those of us without a knowledge of sign language, Ms Toft was able to banter and sign a few jokes with mayor Simon Richardson, giving the audience a chuckle.

"I prepare for these events by studying all the written documents,” she said.

"When you interpret in sign language there is up to three second delay.

"It is a different language having its own grammar and syntax.

"The language is a visual language and is conceptual therefore providing meaning of the message rather than representing the words.”

Ms Toft said it gives her great satisfaction to be helping create a deaf-friendly world.

"It gives everyone equal access to all the events and provides a service that's inclusive.”

Ms Toft said to become an interpreter, a person needed to have an openness and willingness to engage with the deaf community.

To book Alison for events you can contact her on 0423016876.

Private tutor Catheryn Britton holds weekly classes in sign language at The Mullumbimby Neighbourhood Centre. Phone Catheryn on 0439391112 (SMS only).

The Deaf Society is running beginners Auslan Sign Language 1 & 2.

Courses start term 1 at Lismore, from February 13.


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