Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

MPs back Bill to make British Sign Language a recognised language

The government is backing a Private Member’s Bill which hopes to make British Sign Language (BSL) a recognised language in the UK and help deaf people play a more prominent role in society.

The Bill, introduced by Labour MP Rosie Cooper, signals promotion and facilitation of BSL when making public service announcements, encouraging other service providers to do the same.

With more than 250,000 British people relying on BSL, Susan Daniels of the National Deaf Children’s Society said the Bill marks a “big step forward towards a society where they [deaf people] are truly included”.

An advisory board of BSL users would also be launched

If passed, an advisory board of BSL users would also be launched. Their role would be to offer guidance to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on how and when to use it, and to examine how the DWP goes about increasing the number of BSL interpreters.

They would also ensure the Access to Work scheme better meets the needs of BSL users to support them in employment.

Department for Work and Pensions Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Chloe Smith said that legally recognising BSL in the UK would be a “significant step towards ensuring that deaf people are not excluded from reaching their potential.”

“Passing the Bill will see government commit to improving the lives of deaf people, and will encourage organisations across the nation to take up the BSL mantle, benefitting both themselves and the deaf community,” she added.

“Their language is equal and should be treated as equal”

The Bill was put forward by Ms Cooper, who grew up with deaf parents. During the Commons debate, she told MPs that children of deaf parents often have to “shoulder responsibilities well beyond their years” if the right support is not available.

She said that deaf people who rely on BSL are often “ignored, misunderstood, or even treated as unintelligent” and this Bill will ensure that “their language is equal and should be treated as equal.”

Strictly Come Dancing star Rose Ayling-Ellis has also backed the Bill and has since campaigned to make BSL a legally recognised language.

She said: “The deaf community have constantly had to fight to be heard. This Bill sends a clear message that they deserve equal access and will be treated as equal.”

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