Saturday night was the most impactful Strictly Come Dancing final to date.

With AJ sadly unable to participate in the final, this left Rose and Giovanni Pernice competing with John and Johannes Radebe to win the Glitterball trophy.

But for both finalists in this year’s competition, there was a lot more at stake than just the win.

They were representing, underrepresented communities. Every Saturday night for 13 weeks, both couples showcased diversity and educated, influenced, and inspired millions of people.

Rose’s win

I sat with my family, all of us on the edge of our seats, watching the final seconds waiting for the result to be announced. When Rose won, we screamed and jumped around the living room with wild abandon in a way that we haven’t for any TV show (ever!).

In that moment, ground-breaking change had occurred that would have a lasting affect for the deaf community.

Summing up Rose’s win, Head judge, Shirley Ballas said 

“I know in your heart you did it for the deaf community but for me, you did this for every person watching this show. You are an inspirational young lady.”

Shirley could not have put it better.

As we live in a world of deaf and hearing people.

The shows viewing audience peaked at 12.3 million, equal to the number of people in the UK who are deaf or have a hearing loss.

Yep, 12 million deaf people in the UK, which is 1 in 6 of the population.

Hero of the deaf community

Rose has become a role model for young deaf people and broken-down barriers for future generations of deaf people here in the UK.

She has shown others that anything is possible if you apply yourself wholeheartedly, with humour and humility.

Paula Garfield, the founder of Deafinitely Theatre (https://www.deafinitelytheatre.co.uk), the UK’s first deaf-led theatre company, said:

“Rose is so important as a positive role model. She’s deaf, but she has a community, culture, language and pride in those – she’s not trying to hide her deafness. She’s saying, ‘Don’t be shy, you shouldn’t be ashamed of using your first language, BSL, because it’s beautiful and rich.’ That’s opening a lot of doors. She’s saying deaf people can do anything they want to do,”

In week 8 of the competition, their couples choice dance was described by Rose as a ‘joyful dance that celebrates the deaf community.’  If you missed it – take a look here:

Influencing ideas and attitudes

Rose has also made a permanent impact on the hearing world’s consciousness.

Our attitudes as human beings come from our feelings and emotions, past and future activity and our thoughts and beliefs.

If you read the online narrative around Rose’s win on Strictly Come Dancing, it is clear to see that this created an emotive response in the audience.  

Emotional responses run deep and mark us for life.  And if exposed to a like-minded situation in the future, this same feeling and emotion will be triggered.

Say someone worked at a Bank (had been watching Strictly during 2021) and a deaf customer walks in.

It is likely that they would feel more confident in serving this deaf customer.  

This comes from the feeling that through watching Rose, it almost feels like meeting a deaf person is not a new experience.

There are no assumptions, as there is lived experience.                                                                                                                  There is confidence in approach through familiarity.                                                                                                                  Perceptions have been changed.

Anyone watching who has a deaf colleague at work is now more likely to approach them, as there is a shared experience to discuss. 

The Nyle DiMarco effect

Over in the US back in 2015, deaf model, Nyle DiMarco won the US show America’s Top Model and the following year won Dancing with the Stars.

His presence has educated the world on Sign Language, Deaf Culture and Deaf Rights.  And he has helped build bridges between the deaf and hearing world.

Nyle established the Nyle DiMarco Foundation (https://nyledimarcofoundation.com) to support parents of deaf children and build awareness around bilingual education, educating children in both sign language and English.

Wearing his other hat as Executive Producer, he has recently released a reality docuseries called Deaf-U following deaf students at Gallaudet University, Washington DC, a place where students live and learn using American Sign Language (ASL) and English.

He continues to put deaf culture and sign language on the agenda and is an activist for deaf people’s rights.

This makes them very powerful in terms of influencing ideas and attitudes.

 

Rose’s legacy

Rose has sent shockwaves into the core on society.

In the past 13 weeks alone, things have changed and I know that the impact will be felt for a long time to come.

She has broken so many barriers and assumptions and the UK public have absolutely fell in love with Rose and the deaf community.

More people learning British Sign Language (BSL)

After Rose and Giovanni’s performance on 23 October, UK searches for the phrase ‘sign language’ increased by 488%.

And searched for ‘learn sign language’ rose by 1,011% between 5-8pm whilst Strictly was being aired.

At the start of November, a British Sign Language course website told ITV News that they had seen a 2,844% increase in signups for their free trial training programmes since Rose has appeared on the show.

If more people learn BSL, this will hugely benefit the 150,000 deaf people in the UK who use BSL as their first or preferred language.

Future generation impact

The BBC interview Sixth form student Daisy Bennett who said that her sign language lessons will help her goal to become a child psychologist.

Can you imagine, if heaps of young people choose to learn BSL and then get jobs where they are positively impacting people.  A much more accessible society.

More deaf representation in the British media

Rose is paving the way for more deaf presenters and actors to appear on screen.

We look forward to seeing this increase in representation of the wider deaf community.

Wider use of BSL Interpreters on screen

During her time on Strictly, she was interviewed numbers of times, with a BSL Interpreter there providing access to communication. 

Other programmes chose to interview other deaf people about the impact that Rose has made.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bm4hYr5nifk 

https://twitter.com/DancingPhoenix/status/1471472280039571462?s=20 

You can see in these two examples that BSL Interpreters were fully present, not relying upon the sole use of subtitles.

This is something that has already been increasing and I have no doubt that the amount of content with access in BSL with continue to steadily grow. 

Spot the missing interpreter?!

A huge campaign since 2020, is #WhereIsTheInterpreter campaign (https://whereistheinterpreter.com), started with the Government not providing a BSL Interpreter for the COVID briefings, despite many other countries having Sign Language Interpreters on their main news broadcast.

As a part of the campaign, Kate Rowley from Leeds, Yorkshire launched High Court action against the Government and in July 2021 – won!

Ms Rowley said that “the Government has breached obligations to make broadcasts accessible to deaf people under equality legislation.”  

Despite Ministers disputing her claim and Cabinet Office lawyers requesting the case be dismissed, a London judge made a ruling in her favour.

BSL Act/Bill

And who knows where Rose will go next. 

One of the biggest things on the agenda for the deaf community is the BSL Act.  

The British Deaf Association (BDA) and several other Deaf charities and organisations met with Rosie Cooper, MP on 6 October 2021 to discuss a British Sign Language Bill which she will bring forward as a Private Member’s Bill in January 2022.

The BDA explain that “the aims of the British Sign Language (BSL) Bill will be to declare BSL as an official language of the United Kingdom, provide for a BSL Council that will be able to promote and advise on matters relating to the language, and mechanisms to remove the barriers faced by Deaf Sign Language users.”

Rosie Cooper MP said: “Together we are working really hard to ensure this Bill will make a real difference to Deaf sign language users lives. The roundtable with Government Ministers will be key to bringing them onside by proving that this bill is needed.”

The BSL Act/Bill has successfully passed in Scotland in 2015 and in Wales in February 2021.

And the Irish Sign Language (ISL) Act was signed into law on 24 December 2017.

Conclusion

2022 will bring about the largest change that the deaf community has ever seen.  

A culmination of the legacy from Rose’s win, #WhereIsTheInterpreter still campaigning and the Private Members Bill for the BSL Bill that will be brought to Parliament by Rosie Cooper, MP in January.

So, come on 2022 – let’s change the world for deaf people!

 

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