A deaf woman says her fire service colleagues have changed her life – after more than 20 of them took up sign language.
Wendy Read started work for the Knowledge Management team at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service a year and a half ago.
The 39-year-old mum of one from Locks Heath said she was shocked and delighted by the efforts her colleagues made to cater for her additional needs.
She said: “I was surprised when people started to learn sign language. It started off as a few work-related signals and then developed to a conversational level – some have taken it even further.
“Now we can chat about holidays and interests, and the team have made me feel extremely valued and happy – I look forward to coming into work.
“The way my colleagues have supported me makes me feel that I work with some very special people. I think when you are happy you work better too.
“Their efforts have really changed my life and made me feel much more confident. In some jobs being deaf can lead to you feeling lonely and isolated.”
The Research and Intelligence Support worker went on to praise the additional help she had been given, especially by bosses Research and Intelligence Manager Dawn Capp and Analyst Team Leader Justine Gray.
She said when she started they immediately set about providing workshops for staff, run by Eileen Groves, to learn sign language and made sure she was kept up to date with work issues.
Her colleague Analyst Researcher Su Whitlock, who has studied to British Sign Language (BSL) Level 3, said: “As a team we are caring and empathetic, and it seemed natural to do everything we can to make Wendy feel welcome.
“HFRS encourages learning throughout the organisation which not only meant people had the opportunity of taking up sign language but also meant Wendy has been able to develop new skills and attend courses.”
The fluency of her colleagues ranges from conversational to advanced and people from other departments are now learning the communication method.
She has also been sent on a number of courses to hone her skills and help her progress in the organisation.
Mrs Capp said: “Wendy is very able and an extremely valuable member of the team. We want to get the most out of people.
“When you know you have the right person for the job you should go the extra mile to keep them and support their development.
“You have to give a person the tools they need to do the job and communication is key. Giving Wendy the support she needs no different than giving staff phones and computers.”
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority Chairman Councillor Chris Carter said: "Inclusion at the heart of everything we do.
"We pride ourselves on being the best and for that you have to keep the right people and get the most out of them.
"We are delighted that Wendy - a much-valued member of the team - is so happy in her role and how she has been so welcomed and supported by her fire service family."