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Why I started learning British Sign Language at fifty

When Accord Regional Officer Russell Waterhouse was dealing with a union member who used British Sign Language (BSL), he wished he was able to communicate with them directly rather than having to write things down. That sparked an interest in the language and motivated Russell to pursue it further.

“It’s like when you hear a song once and then start hearing it all the time,” he explains. “I just had my eyes opened and I suddenly noticed sign being used in my gym, in the town, in a pub. And I wanted to do something with it.”

Now, with support from Accord, Russell has completed a Level One qualification in BSL at Bristol College and is starting his Level Two course in the autumn.

As well as learning the essentials of BSL, which has a different grammatical structure to spoken English, the course has also given Russell a new perspective on how people who are Deaf or have hearing impairments move through the world. He also highlights that since many of us find our hearing deteriorating as we get older, it’s an advantage to already have some knowledge of BSL.

Russell hopes that what he’s learned will be useful in the course of his work. He’d like to be available to directly support members and to help Accord understand the challenges that members who are Deaf or have hearing impairments might face. But he was also eager to learn something new in the year he turned fifty.

“I got so much more from it than I ever imagined,’ he says. “And that’s because of the really rich and diverse people that were doing the course. They had their different reasons, different ages, different identities, languages and experiences. And spending time in that environment with people that were all very keen to do something was very uplifting.”

Accord's lifelong learning fund

Has Russell’s story inspired you to try something new? Accord’s Lifelong Learning Fund provides support to members who want to learn new skills, from flower arranging to master’s degrees.

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Benchmark Travel celebrating 20 years

Benchmark Travel is your gateway to an extraordinary travel experience tailored exclusively for Accord members. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we take pride in offering a level of service and discounts that no other travel company can match. We are not just about savings; we're about creating unforgettable journeys, whether it's a last-minute escape, a dream holiday, a captivating city break, or an adventurous tour.


We used Benchmark over the past few years for a number of holidays and the service has always been great. This morning was another example of the team going over and above. Sarah called at 9:30 on a Sunday morning to help us find an alternative following the Rhodes cancellations. Amazing service that saved our summer hols!

Jonathan Anderson (Accord member)
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Benchmark Travel can put together for Accord members, absolutely anything holiday related, from UK staycations to worldwide city breaks, family packages to last minute tailor-made luxury offers and everything in between, all at the best possible price because of your member savings. If you’ve seen something already somewhere else - no problem just send us the details and we should be able to beat the price!

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City breaks

Looking to get away for a few days? Our city breaks include destinations that are perfect for sightseeing, shopping and sun-seeking, packaged together for your protection but you can still choose your hotel, where you fly from and the airline you fly with. Will it be a romantic, sightseeing or shopping weekend at one of Europe’s capital cities or will it be choosing one from your bucket-list trip further afield.

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