Leading deafness charities this week urged the Government to renew its efforts in supporting British Sign Language..
Signature, the British Deaf Association and the Royal Association for Deaf People is calling for MPs to sign the Early Day Motion 1167, which proposes a responsible named minister for British Sign Language and a fresh report on the subject.
The call to action comes ten years after the Government’s official recognition of British Sign Language (BSL) as a ‘language in its own right regularly used by a significant number of people’, on 18 March 2003.
Though there has been an improvement in support for BSL users over the last 10 years, the charities say that this has been uncoordinated. Signature is calling for a more co-ordinated cross-departmental approach starting with a report that will identify what the government is currently doing to support BSL users and identify the barriers that still remain to BSL users’ full participation in, and contribution to, UK society.
Research by the charities shows that BSL users still find it hard to access health, education and other services, as well as employment, due to a lack of public awareness and interpreters.
Jim Edwards, Chief Executive of Signature, said: “We urge MPS to engage on the issues, challenges and barriers which continue to affect thousands of deaf people around the country. We hope that the next ten years will bring greater support and recognition for British Sign Language users but we need the support of local authorities and health services to achieve this.”
The charities are calling for the government to address the following in the new report:
- Address the frustration felt by Deaf people by improving specific services to make BSL users’ lives easier. The government’s efforts to increase BSL learning and video relay services are helpful but more is needed.
- Make sure deaf children and their families are protected from the cuts to specialist services being made by local authorities.
- Encourage local councils and health authorities to sign up to make their services more accessible, by making their staff deaf aware and setting standards for engaging with Deaf service users.
About British Sign Language (BSL)
BSL is a visual, spatial language that uses movement of the hands, body, face and head. The language has its own sentence structure, expressions, and regional variations. It is the first or preferred language of approximately 70,000 Deaf people in the UK.
Signature is a national charity which campaigns to improve the standards of communication with deaf and deafblind people in the UK. Its vision is of a fully accessible society, powered by a greater understanding of the languages and communication methods used by deaf and deafblind people. A leading authority in the sector, Signature advises government and business; publishes educational resources; campaigns and lobbies. Signature also recognises best practice in the provision of nationally recognised qualifications which ensure British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters are of a sufficiently high standard to meet the needs of deaf people.