Audrey uses her experience of teaching chemistry as a deaf person to develop science signs for users of sign language.
Dr Audrey Cameron gained her chemistry degree at Paisley University and then went to the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, to do her PhD. She has been profoundly deaf since birth and due to her hard work, became the first deaf doctor in Scotland.
School days and teaching
“When I first moved from a supportive environment of a boarding school for the deaf to Paisley in 1986, I experienced a complete culture shock, as there was no support system for deaf students at Paisley at that time. In these days, there was no such thing as the Disabled Student Allowance and after the first month, when I approached the head of department and asked for additional lecture notes, I was promptly told that was not possible and I would have to work as hard as other students.”
Things have changed now and students with disabilities find more support, but during her time at Strathclyde, and later as a post-doctoral researcher at Durham, Audrey was repeatedly told that as a deaf person, she would be unable to become a lecturer and thus gain career advancement. "For this reason, I decided to make a career change away from chemistry research and having made enquiries, was accepted for the PGCE teacher-training course at the University of Edinburgh."
Audrey eventually became a teacher of higher-grade chemistry in mainstream schools where she used the services of interpreters in her teaching.
“Why is it that as a deaf person, I can be trusted with teaching school children to the highest level and yet, I have been denied the opportunity to advance my academic career in science at university because it is deemed that I am not capable of lecturing to students?”
Audrey believes that disabled staff have a right to equality and should have access to the same level of support as the disabled students.
Since 2007, Audrey has been a member of the British Sign Language (BSL) glossary team, based at the Scottish Sensory Centre at Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh. "I'm involved in an exciting project where we work to develop and evaluate new science signs for deaf students."
She also works as a translator for deaf students (English to BSL) in university and industry environments. She teaches sign language to families of deaf children for the National Deaf Children's Society and does outreach work to consult with the deaf community on behalf of the British Deaf Association. Since 2010, she has been a deaf studies tutor at Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh.
Words by Holly Salisbury
Images © Tom Finnie / RSC images
Published April 2013