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One-stop shop helps thedeaf transform their lives

Jackie Knight, 37, and Sharon Taylor, 31 are deaf. But they also share one other key experience: they have been helped by a unique British organisation, the Centre for Deaf People at London's City Literary Institute (the City Lit).

Both were nominated for national awards that recognised their achievement in learning, and Jackie won one. They were celebrated alongside many other nominees during this week's annual festival, Adult Learners' Week (May 12-18).

The awards, organised by the National Insititute of Adult Continiuing Education recognise people and organisations who have made a difference through learning to their own lives or the lives of others.

Jackie Knight, from north London, is profoundly deaf. After leaving school with no qualifications, she spent ten years working in catering and being a roadsweeper. She then resolved to make a new start.

Ms Knight took a foundation catering programme at Westminster College, a pre-access course at City and Islington College and an access course at Kingsway College. She is now about to take her finals in a law degree at the University of North London.

Throughout this time the City Lit's Centre for Deaf People has provided her with an interpreter and notetaker for lectures and tutorials.

The person who nominated her for the award, Mary Ensor, her tutor co-ordinator at the City Lit, said: "She i determined, works hard, has got a sense of humour and is intelligent. Jackie has all the qualities you need to succeed." Ms Knight is also a presenter on the TV programme for deaf people, See Hear, and has started a website to increase deaf people's access to legal advice.

Sharon Taylor, a former secondary English teacher, has no hearing in her right ear and about 40 per cent in her left. At the centre she studied teacher training, and deafblind communication skills. She is now one of the centre's teachers of deaf students.

The centre, whose students are aged from 16 to 90, has a unique range of services with some 130 professionals, who include teachers of deaf people and of sign language and lip-reading, hearing therapists, interpreters, speech counsellors and specialist advisers. It also offers accredited training for those who work with the deaf. The support service offers interpreters and note-takers to students at other London colleges.

Specialist offerings include courses for deaf people new to this country such as refugees and a lip-reading course for those for whom English is a second language.

Karen Considine, head of the centre, located in a warren-like former Victorian school in central London, said: "This is the only centre of its type in the country. We have such a mix of professionals in one place. We are a one-stop shop."

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