Stockton-based funeral firm Crake & Mallon has introduced a unique sign language support service.
The service, which is being provided by one of the firm’s Funeral Directors, Lee Crawford, is aimed at improving the accessibility of the support offered by the family-owned business.
Lee, who has been learning British Sign Language (BSL) since September 2014, has acquired a number of BSL qualifications.
A visual-gestural language, with its own grammar and principles, which are completely different from the grammatical structure of English, BSL is the first or preferred language of an estimated 70,000 deaf people in the UK.
Lee passed his first BSL qualification in June 2015 when he was awarded Signature Level 1 and went on to pass Level 2 a year later. In July of this year he acquired the Signature linguistic qualification and is aiming to start working towards his Level 3 qualification shortly.
He said: “I have always been interested in learning British Sign Language (BSL) but what pushed me was when I became a Funeral Director and was arranging a funeral with families who had a deaf family member.
“I found that they were often excluded from the decision-making or what was being said or were trying to lip read because no one could sign, or they would just get told ‘I will tell you later’. I thought this was unfair because they had also just lost a loved one and should be involved.”
He added: “By learning BSL it means I can provide a unique service to a family with a deaf family member because I can sign while also talking to the hearing family, keeping the deaf person fully involved, informed, and making decisions about their loved one’s funeral arrangements.
“Although I am not up to the level yet to sign a full funeral service, as a Funeral Director I can answer any questions and give instructions leading up to and on the funeral day while conducting the funeral.”
Crake & Mallon Senior Partner, Alison Crake, said the firm was delighted to be able to support Lee’s decision to study BSL.
“He has shown an impressive and selfless dedication to supporting the families who use our services by helping to break down barriers faced by those who are deaf and hearing-impaired.”
Lee studied with MeSign based in Thornaby, where students are taught by deaf teachers and user of BSL.
Michelle Teasdale, BSL Coordinator at MeSign said: “Back in 2014, all of us at MeSign were genuinely delighted when we found out Crake & Mallon was interested in having a proficient BSL funeral director.
“This service has been long needed by the deaf community and we are pleased to report that members of the deaf community have since been able to make their own arrangements for their loved ones.
“Crake & Mallon has been able to provide a more personal service by removing the need for interpreters, allowing clients to feel confident communicating in their preferred language of British Sign Language. They have also made it clear they care about the deaf community and the level of service they receive.
“As a company we are, and continue to be, impressed by the commitment shown by Crake & Mallon. If all companies were as committed, deaf customers would receive an equal standard of customer service to those of hearing customers.”