PCSO Colin Gibbons talks hidden disabilities and different ways you can contact the police
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Today (Thursday, 20 May) is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, a day which focuses on digital access and inclusion. At Surrey Police, we are committed to our communities and ensuring that they have access to contact us in the right ways, when they need.
Police Community Support Officer Colin Gibbons is reaching out to local communities to talk about how they can best contact and communicate with the police, and his own experience of hidden disabilities.
“My name is Colin Gibbons and work as a PCSO in Spelthorne. I joined Surrey Police as PCSO back in 2005 and enjoy working in the local community. During my time in the role, I have built up strong links with our communities, which I am proud to be a part of. I have been very fortunate in my role over the years, and have undertaken training to further my education on different communities which has equipped me on my daily patrols and when I engage with the local community. I feel empowered by having this knowledge so I can help and support vulnerable residents and victims of crime in the best possible way.
“I am personally very aware of hidden disabilities and how much they can impact on people’s lives. I have dyslexia, and a stutter, but having these never holds me back from doing anything in life, especially in my job with Surrey Police. I feel fully supported in my role, and feel that Surrey Police have gone the extra mile to support me with my disabilities. They have put in extra support where required, and value me as a member of the force. My team fully support and embrace my disabilities, and having dyslexia can help me look at things and situations from a different perspective.
“Last year, I completed my Level 1 and 2 Makaton Course. The course was amazing and gave a real insight how I can use Makaton whilst out on patrol. I quickly realised Makaton was a useful communication tool, not only with people who have hearing difficulties, but people who have other communication difficulties, such as autism. I have only learnt the basics of Makaton at this stage but local residents are surprised when I use what I have learnt, and helps breakdown barriers and forms better links within the community.
“I am a ‘Dementia Friend’ and have attended a number of training sessions that have been run about dementia. This has given me a real insight into people living with dementia go through and how best I can support the person and their families. Where I can I promote the ‘Herbert Protocol’. The Herbert Protocol is a form that carers, family or friends of a vulnerable person, or the person themselves can fill in.
“In Spelthorne, I have connected with a local charity, Purple Angels, who support people with dementia, and their families. They provide support in many different ways, including fundraising for GPS trackers for people with dementia to put on their clothing, so that if they were to go missing, their loved ones can locate them. I see the real benefits of linking with local groups such as this, and have seen first-hand the difference this support has made to people’s lives.
“When I am out on patrol I always carry a pocket size communication aid, which contains a number of signs and symbols. This has come in handy when I have been on patrol and there have been communication barriers.
“Over the years I have established a strong link with a local support group for adults with ADHD, I have been invited to their training sessions and meetings, which has given me an insight into what is can be like for someone living with ADHD, and the people who care for them. This training has given me a different view point in the way I might tackle and deal with certain situations.
“At Surrey Police we have a number of officers and staff who have undertaken specialised disability training. They are a great point of contact for guidance and support, especially when dealing with incidents, reports and crimes involving people with disabilities.
“The Pegasus card is a Surrey scheme for people who find it hard to communicate. It’s free, and anyone who has a disability or illness that may make it hard to communicate with the police can register. The card helps us identify that you may need extra help and support from us, and when you give us your personal identification number we can access your details, which will save you time, and make sure we get you the right support.
“I am very passionate and enjoy supporting people in my role as a PCSO. My job is very rewarding and it’s great that I can offer support within the community.”
We know that communicating with us can be daunting if you’re deaf or find it hard to communicate, but there are several ways of getting in touch, should you need us. Please share this information with anyone who may benefit from it:
We have our textphone service on 18000, you can also use our 999 emergency text service - you must register your mobile phone first. To find out more: https://www.relayuk.bt.com/
We also encourage anyone who has speech or communication difficulties to join our Pegasus card scheme, which could save you time and help you in an emergency. Visit surrey.police.uk/Pegasus for more information.
We’ve partnered with @Interpreter_Now to provide a British Sign Language Video Relay Service that puts BSL users in immediate contact with an online interpreter. The video interpreter will call us and relay information about the crime you are reporting. Interpreter Now is also being used by our officers when approached by a BSL user, at our custody suites and front counters. You can learn more about Interpreter Now and the app here: https://interpreternow.co.uk