ABSLT – The Association of British Sign Language Tutors – was formed at the instigation of the BDA in April 1989 – prior to that there was no organisation or group to co-ordinate issues relating to the teaching of BSL and the tutors who taught it.
Liz Scott-Gibson was the BDA’s Education Officer at that time and she arranged an open meeting at Doncaster College in April 1989, with the view to setting up an Association of BSL tutors who could share experiences and support each other.
It became apparent at that meeting that it would not be easy to set up such an Association so a “steering committee” was elected to draw up some basic rules and draft a constitution. Melinda Napier, who was until recently chairperson of ABSLT, was on the steering committee and remained on the official committee until she stepped down as chairperson this year  - 25 years.
A draft constitution
After many meetings of the steering committee another open meeting was called in November 1989 at Birmingham Deaf Club at which an Executive Committee was formed and a draft constitution presented for approval as follows.
The name of the Association was originally “The Association of British Sign Language Tutors” but in 2006 the word ‘Assessors’ was added to the title and this year [ 2014 ] the word ‘Tutors’ was changed to ‘Teachers’ to reflect the professional qualifications of members
The aims of the Association are to promote and safeguard the interests of, and provide advice and information to members.
The objects of the Association are to:
3.1 Act as a co-ordinating body between Sign Language tutors throughout the U.K.
3.2 Promote Sign Language Tutor Training.
3.3 Promote the adoption of professional standards among Sign Language Tutors.
The first Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer
Linda Richards, Melinda Napier and Richard Magill were the first Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer, respectively, with committee members representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
First “official” Annual General Meeting
In November 1990 the Association’s first “official” Annual General Meeting was held at Manchester Deaf Club but owing to a problem with the Constitution the meeting was adjourned to a later date.
An Extraordinary General Meeting was called at Manchester Deaf Club in June 1991 and a new committee was formed with Charles Herd as Chairman, Melinda Napier as Secretary and Eleanor Herd as Treasurer. It is interesting to note that the greatly respected Dorothy Miles was elected to this committee.
A lot to offer BSL tutors
- Since then the Association has become well established – providing valuable support and training for BSL tutors in workshops all over the UK and liaising with other bodies connected with the teaching and assessing of Sign Language.
- The Association’s activities are limited due to the fact that it is entirely a voluntary organisation and relies more or less solely on membership fees and donations for its income, this is a great pity as it is felt that ABSLT has a lot to offer BSL tutors.
All the committee are volunteers
There have been suggestions in the past that the Association become a charity and/or a limited company, which would help with finances, but partly due to the fact that all the committee are volunteers, with other jobs to do and also that the Association has no office of its own that has not happened yet.
Regardless of the financial restrictions the ABSLTA has provided valuable support to members in the past and will continue to do so as best they can in the future.
ABSLTA to promote
Last March 2014 Charles Herd, the secretary at that time announced he was disappointed that the number of BSL teachers and assessors had fallen. The committee agreed we needed better ways to promote and spread the work of the Association to gain more members as it is important for BSL teachers and assessors to support each other.
ABSLTA Facebook Page
The committee agreed to have an ABSLTA Facebook Page but were unsure how to set up so Emma Iliffe, one of the committee, contacted Ashley Clifford, one of our members, who is a Facebook Whizz! Instead of meeting ‘face to face’ they communicated by Face Time, this amazing technology saved transport costs and time!
ABSLTA Facebook Page quotes from new members
“I only know about ABSLTA from Facebook, thanks so much for spreading it to anyone“
“Thank-you ABSLTA Facebook for inviting me. Lucky I was one of your Facebook Friends“
“I wish ABSLTA website and Facebook put a link like Signature so BSL teachers would be aware about it. I was teaching for few years but didn’t know nothing about ABSLTA. I wish I had known earlier. “