Signs are right for butcher’s shop assistant
When butcher’s shop assistant Mark Boyd witnessed deaf and hard-of-hearing customers struggling to communicate, he vowed to do something about it.
Now the 54-year-old counter assistant at Bryan Beveridge Quality Butchers in Dunfermline has lifted a national industry award for his determination to master sign language and place the shop front and centre for the deaf community as the only butcher in Scotland offering the service.
British Sign Language (BSL) tutor Maria Gilmour nominated her student Mark for the Scottish Craft Butchers coveted Extra Mile Award, explaining that he had gone: “Above and beyond” in his determination to make life easier and more inclusive for those with communication difficulties.
Maria explained that Covid interrupted Mark’s initial studies in 2020 but he was determined to complete the course – no matter how long it took. In June this year, he attained his full Level 1 certificate and is now set on advanced Level 2 studies.
“Mark is very keen to enhance and improve deaf community perception through his work and his other colleagues, through understanding their individual needs and by working with them to make them aware that local butchers are there to help them,” said Maria.
“I’m chuffed to bits,” said a delighted Mark on receiving his award, sponsored by the Scotch Butchers Club.
“I never expected to be rewarded or recognised,” he said. “I didn’t do this for me – I did it for all those who struggle to communicate in the retail space and who have a right to be treated equally.
“I watched people point to things on their mobile phone or scribble notes on little pieces of paper and pass them over and realised that we could do more.
“I wanted them to be able to exchange a cheery ‘Good Morning’ and have some one-to-one banter and the only way to do that was to learn how to talk with them through sign language.”
With the support of his bosses and colleagues, Mark self-funded his course and studied in his own time to secure his accreditation.
“Breaking down the barriers for a silent, sometimes forgotten, minority in our local communities means they no longer have to rely on phone texts or hand written notes,” said Mark. “Instead they have a friend with a smile to assist them.
“It’s a joy and a privilege to be able to support those with communication difficulties,” explained Mark. “I’m so proud to have achieved my BSL Level 1. My tutor was great in tailoring modules to cover words and phrases that we would use in a butchers shop.
“Yes, I’m still learning and, yes, I sometimes get it wrong, but the customers will laugh and everyone is grateful that an effort is being made so we help each other through the sign language conversation.
“To be nominated – and then to win – the Extra Mile Award is just amazing. I’m thrilled,” added Mark. “Hopefully recognition for what we are doing in Dunfermline might encourage others to step up and support a diverse range of minorities within our communities.”
As word of Mark’s BSL skills spreads, a growing number of people with communication difficulties are becoming regular customers at the High Street butchers shop.
Mark’s boss, shop owner Bryan Beveridge, described his achievement as: “Amazing.”
“He showed great determination and resilience to achieve his goal and we’re all extremely proud of him,” said Bryan.
“He’s a hugely popular member of the team and a real asset to the company.
“We have between 800 and 1,000 customers each week and every day there is someone who needs Mark and his special skills to make their shopping experience special. It’s just great to see them laughing and chatting away in sign language. He’s a very empathic person and he’s achieved something that others are very envious of. He certainly goes the Extra Mile and is very deserving of the Scottish Craft Butchers award.
Gordon King, executive manager with Scottish Craft Butchers, said nominations for the 2022 Extra Mile Award poured in from all over Scotland as customers nominated their local butcher for special recognition.
And he said that Mark was an: “Outstanding winner.”
“Mark wanted to make people’s shopping experience easier and went the Extra Mile to ensure those needing extra support were given equal service,” he said.
“He sums up the ethos of independent local retailers who will make that extra effort to care for their customers and his kindness and commitment to helping others is an example to which others can aspire.
“Mark is a credit to his workplace and profession, a special person to all with communication difficulties and an inspiration to us all.”