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British Sign Language

British Sign Language | deaf people are fighting to be heard

British Sign Language: It’s Time to Support Efforts to Make Society More Inclusive for Deaf People

British sign language

What is British Sign Language?

Sign language is a visual form of communication through gestures, facial expressions and body language. In Britain, the most popular form of Sign Language is British Sign Language (BSL), being the preferred language of around 145,000 people in the UK. BSL is integral for many deaf people to be able to communicate well with others.

Language Accessibility is a Human Right

Access to language is not a luxury, but a human right. Yet, difficulties that deaf people face within our society are often overlooked in British politics. Without being able to communicate with Sign Language, too many deaf people face linguistic exclusion that can negatively impact their access to public services, employment and education. For example, a survey by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People found that half of BSL users had left a doctor’s appointment feeling confused about their medical condition. Individuals feeling excluded from public life can also have an extremely negative impact on their mental health. This means a lot more needs to be done to support deaf people in the UK.

Unfortunately it is more common than you might think for disabled people to be denied their human rights, you can read more about those injustices in our recent article here.

#BSLBill

In 2003, the British Government formally recognised BSL as an official language, but 18 years later it has still not been granted legal status.

Rosie Cooper MP introduced a Private Members Bill in June 2021 to make BSL an official language, along with the establishment of a Board to promote and facilitate the use of BSL. If the Bill is successful, this would be a fantastic step towards tackling linguistic exclusion by ensuring BSL would be accessible in public services.

“There are around 90,000 deaf people in the UK that rely on BSL, yet they have to fight every day to be heard or listened to! My Bill aims to help put deaf BSL users on a more equal playing field with everyone else” – Rosie Cooper MP.

The second reading of this Bill will happen on Friday 28th January for MPs to debate it.

One way to encourage the success of the BSL Bill is to write to your MP and ask them to be in the House of Commons on the 28th and vote for the BSL Bill to go through.

To find out more about the BSL Bill and along with a great example letter to send to your MP concerning the Bill, visit: https://bda.org.uk/bsl-act-now/.

Rose Ayling-Ellis Puts Sign Language in the Spotlight

British sign language 

The timing of the BSL Bill could not be more perfect, since the issues facing the deaf community have been making headline news since Rose Ayling-Ellis became the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. Rose was crowned Strictly champion in December and helped to raise awareness for the deaf community.

Rose, who’s known for playing Frankie Lewis in EastEnders, brought challenges that deaf people face into the spotlight. For example, in a BBC Breakfast interview, Rose talked about the struggles she faced as a child, explaining how her mother had to “fight” for her to have deaf accessible education.

In one powerful moment during the series, Rose and her dance partner Giovanni played tribute to the deaf community within their dance. While the pair were dancing to the song “Symphony” by Clean Bandit, halfway through the music stopped, and they danced to muffled noises and silence. It was an emotional and powerful statement.

Rose has had a great impact on the British general public, as many people with hearing began to realise that society needs to change to be more inclusive to deaf people. This led thousands to sign-up for BSL courses during Rose’s time on Strictly. A director of one firm offering BSL courses said that enrolments had gone up by more than 2000% since Rose was on the show.

Give Learning BSL a Go!

If you do not already use Sign Language, learning BSL is a great way to do your bit in helping to tackle linguistic exclusion in the deaf community. Learning BSL can allow you to communicate with more people, and research shows that learning a new language also improves brain function.

British-sign.co.uk is now offering BSL courses (that were previously £25), as “pay what you can”.

It’s never too late to develop a new skill – why not take 5 minutes now to practice signing your name?

British sign language

Our BEDROCK values

Here at Zetetick, we are passionate about supporting people with disabilities to feel independent and included in our communities. We understand the importance of inclusive communication to tackle feelings of isolation and to encourage a sense of belonging. This makes the importance of BSL becoming an official language very close to our hearts. It encompasses our B.E.D.R.O.C.K values that you can read more about here: https://zhc.org.uk/zetetick-our-values/.

So, here are our two requests today. Write to your MP to support the BSL Bill and if you do not already use Sign Language, challenge yourself to start learning BSL.

Remember, access to language is a human right, so let’s do our bit to help tackle linguistic exclusion.

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