Cate La Starza tells me all about her deaf awareness campaign, Speak For Sign.
A transcription of the interview can be found below.
Ellie: Hello, today I am joined by the wonderful Cate La Starza!
E: Hello! How are you doing?
C: I’m good, how are you?
E: Brilliant! I’m very well thank you. Now, Cate is here to chat to me today all about Speak For Sign, which is a campaign she’s started for deaf awareness.
C: It is!
E: So Cate, can you tell me how Speak For Sign came about?
C: I’ve always loved sign language and tried to do bits since I was 16, but when I worked as a waitress we had a lot of deaf customers, and I was the only one who knew at least a little bit of sign language to be able to communicate and say ‘hello, how are you,’ and just make them feel welcome. More welcome than just getting them to point at the menu.
So yeah, it was basically that, and a lot of deaf people would come in and feel overwhelmed by the queue and have nobody understand them, and people getting annoyed with them and just kind of taking the time out for them to just let them look at the menu and point, instead of just rushing them.
So that’s how Speak For Sign came about – the idea to just encourage sign language more in work environments.
E: And what have you set out to achieve with Speak For Sign? What are your aims?
C: So, it’s Nottingham-based at the minute, and I’m hoping to spread it out all over the UK, like a peanut butter sandwich! So yeah, basically I’m targeting Nottingham, and just getting stickers made, badges, booklets, all with little how-to, basic diagrams – is that the word, diagrams? To kind of learn sign language. Like, even a sticker in the toilets, so a little child goes for a wee and then comes out and is like, ‘mummy, mummy, I learned how to say hello in sign!’ and things like that – just to kind of encourage the awareness of it, really.
You walk around Nottingham and you think about gigs, vintage clothing – you never really think, ‘oh, I’m probably a meter away from a deaf person, who is so isolated from our society because nobody can communicate with them the same way a hearing person communicates with somebody.
E: What kind of response have you had from the deaf community from what you’ve done so far?
C: Basically, I’ve contacted the Nottinghamshire Deaf Society and they seem pretty eager in wanting to help me, so they’ve put me forward to their head office.
I’ve had a lot of support from local businesses, like On Point, I’m Not From London, obviously Phlexx Records, a manager at broadway cinema, so it’s more like local businesses that have got in touch with me, like local businesses at the minute. Also LeftLion, Jared was really helpful.
So yeah, I’m just kind of trying to branch out to the sign language society in Nottingham and Sheffield, and students, really – young people that are like ‘oh actually, I’ve never really considered learning sign language, I might give it a go,’ kind of thing.
E: Now, you say that it’s Nottingham-based at the moment, but I don’t think that’s entirely true… I saw on your Instagram that you received a message all the way from America, didn’t you?
C: I did! *laughs* Yeah, I don’t actually know her – I think her name was Mary or something – and she messaged me, I’ve got her on my personal account, but she messaged me on Speak For Sign’s Instagram account, saying how she is fluent in Spanish and she has to take a course – it’s mandatory to take a language course at her high school. She was going to take Spanish because it would’ve been an easy A with her fluency, but she’s actually going to take ASL now, which is America Sign Language, since she’s been following Speak For Sign since the campaign announcement. I won’t say ‘launch’ because I haven’t really got anything to launch it yet! *laughs*
C: Thank you!
E: Just to think that even though – as you say, you’ve not ‘fully launched’ yet, but you’ve made a start, you’ve set out want you want to do and it’s already making an impact – that’s brilliant!
C: Yeah, I mean, it’s making people more aware – my friends are like ‘so how do I say what’s my name.’ I’ve got a friend called Alex who lives in Sheffield and he was going round to all his friends like ‘oh look, I can say my name is Alex.’ *laughs* It’s so good! It is lovely.
E: What are you planning to do launch-wise?
C: Launch-wise, basically, I want to get a product. At the minute I’ve got a lot of ideas for the campaign, my end goal is to make it compulsory in a lot of UK based schools to have it as an option, at least, but then eventually campaign for it to be a compulsory subject generally, like English or Maths. And then also have one manager in any work environment, have it prioritised as First Aid training.
Which I think it should be, because any one of us could go death at any point, so I think it’s really important to acknowledge the issue.
E: As well, with you being a music and performance student, your hearing is obviously very important – it’s part of your job.
C: Yeah, definitely! To be honest I’m a bit of a hypocrite because I turn up to gigs without any hearing protection, and all of my friends are like, ‘oh gosh, you have to protect your ears,’ and I’m like, ‘I know, I’ll get them one day,’ and then I just spend my money on something else!
E: Well, very well done, thank you so much for chatting with me today.
C: Thank you for having me, it’s been a pleasure! *laughs*
E: No worries, and best of luck. Also, you can let us know where we can find more out about Speak For Sign – plug your social media, basically!
C: Yeah, I’ll plug, plug, plug! So, it’s just @SpeakForSign – S-P-E-A-K For Sign, I don’t know why I had to spell it. I don’t have a twitter so it’s just on Instagram and Facebook at the minute. There’s also a crowdfunder which you can find on the link in my Instagram bio, and Facebook, on the ‘about’ section there’s a website link and things like that. So just Facebook and Instagram really, Speak For Sign.
E: Brilliant, thank you very much!
C: Thank you!