Michelle helps retail staff communicate with customers thanks to Usdaw

Michelle Scott became a ULR in 2015 after attending a Federation School in Warrington on Lifelong Learning where she learnt about the ULR role and the impact it could have.  

Michelle said:

Julia Baldwin talked with such passion about union-led learning that I became inspired to find out more, and last year, I became an Usdaw ULR along with my colleague Jane Jones at Tesco Mold."

Michelle was an immediate success, and when the longstanding Usdaw Mobile Union Learning Rep (MULR) gave up the role to concentrate on other things, Michelle took over. She quickly got stuck in, organising a range of different learning for stores and also kept developing her own skills, by taking part in further learning alongside her ULR training. 

I never imagined that, just a year after becoming a ULR I would be in the position I am in now, being the MULR for North Wales, which in itself is amazing."

Michelle has been particularly successful in organising sign language courses. This is partly due to her friendship with Kerry, the tutor who is delivering the sessions.  

Michelle said:

I have known Kerry for 16 years. She is deaf and has been since birth. I have always spoken to Kerry, relying on her to use her lip reading skills to understand me, while I listen intently to her speak.

I already knew that British Sign Language (BSL) was a popular subject amongst retail staff because of the taster session we ran during the last project at my own store and by talking with members during the recent Parents and Carers Campaign. Kerry was attending a local college, training to be a tutor. She very kindly said she would support my aims to organise BSL courses."

Kerry is currently delivering two unaccredited BSL/deaf awareness courses at around a third of the usual cost. Kerry also benefits by gaining valuable teaching experience to support her in her ambitions to be a fully qualified tutor. Michelle is attending the BSL lessons along with staff from local Tesco stores, partly to support Kerry and to act as her interpreter at times.  

Michelle added:

During the course we did a session of lip reading to put ourselves in the position of the deaf person. This helped us realise how hard this is. Most of us only managed 3 out of every 20 words. These lessons have opened our eyes to the difficulties that the people from the deaf community have to deal with on a daily basis.

I find what I’ve learnt has made a major difference in the communication between myself and my friend. I now try and sign quite a few words, taking the pressure off Kerry using her lip reading skills to understand me. I feel confident that we will soon be able to actually go out to social events and communicate effectively with each other especially those held in a noisy environment. This is something I have always missed out on with my friend and for me it’s best reward so far, deepening my longest and most precious friendships with Kerry.

Kerry shops in both of the stores she is teaching in. It’s great to think that because of Usdaw and the Wales Union Learning Fund there will be 20 plus more people that will be able to communicate with Kerry and other deaf customers, making them feel more welcome in our stores.”