The initiative started when Cst. Dave Castillo, a patrol member in SE Division, brought forward a proposal to take ASL training. Iman Saidi, with the EPS Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Section discussed the idea with other frontline members, and it became clear that communicating with the Deaf community is an issue service-wide.
Iman worked with Deaf & Hear Alberta, a non-profit society dedicated to removing barriers for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and put together a two-day course tailored to the needs of police. “What I learned is that the Deaf community has their own language and culture,” explains Iman. “And with our efforts to build police trust within different communities in Edmonton, this course seemed like a perfect fit.” The course was taught by a facilitator from Deaf & Hear Alberta, and two patrol members from each division took part in the basic ASL and Deaf culture training.
Cst. Dustin Bowdige, who learned some ASL in the past, can attest to the value of basic sign language for patrol members. “I was on a call where the individual was suicidal. Another family member, who was deaf, ran outside the house and was trying to communicate. I was able to sign with the family member enough to understand what was going on inside the house,” recalls Cst. Bowdige. “Having a basic understanding of sign language will help patrol members to speak with those who are deaf or hard of hearing in a way they are more comfortable with.”
This was EPS’s first ASL course, and participants and organizers will evaluate its effectiveness to determine whether further training may be offered in the future.