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Derby College sign language student Donna becomes BSL ambassador for Amazon UK

Learning British Sign Language (BSL) at Derby College Group is helping Amazon UK employee Donna Burton make a huge difference to her colleagues’ lives – and her own life.

Donna, who is 55 and from Ilkeston, works as a process guide at the company’s Kegworth fulfilment centre.

She decided to learn to sign so she could communicate more easily with deaf colleagues at work.

She said: “I used to worry that one of my colleagues in particular might think we were laughing at him as he couldn’t hear us when we were having a joke. I have Tourette’s, which can cause me to tic when I’m nervous, so I know how it feels to think that everyone’s looking at you.”

After downloading the BSL app and using finger spelling skills she learnt years ago, Donna saw a positive change in her colleague.

She added: “Once I was able to better communicate with my colleague, it was clear he was happier in his work.”

Encouraged by this, Donna tried to enrol on the free beginner’s BSL class at DCG’s Ilkeston College, but that was full, so she paid to go on the level 1 course instead.

Donna Burton holding a BSL guide at Amazon

She added: “Going to college at 55, and with my condition, might have made me nervous and made my tics worse, but everyone at college has been so welcoming and friendly. When I went to enrol, I was greeted with a warm smile from the lovely person on reception, which immediately put me at my ease.”

Since then, Donna has become an Amazon Ambassador for British Sign Language, the first within the Amazon Fulfilment Centre at Kegworth.

She is currently using BSL to help make communication easier between 10 hearing-impaired team members and their managers.

Donna added: “What started out as me learning  something for myself, has led to my employer carving out full-time interpreter roles. I’m proud to be an Amazon ambassador. I’m just a normal person and hopefully my story will inspire others who want to make a difference but might feel scared of standing out.”

Find out more about the Level 1 Award in British Sign Language at Ilkeston.