British Sign Language one step closer to becoming a recognised UK language

04/02/2022 | Rebecca Twose

More than 125,000 in the UK use British Sign Language (BSL) every day, whether that be at home or at work. Unlike Welsh and Gaelic, British Sign language is not recognised as an official language in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. This means that public bodies aren’t required to promote the use of the language or facilitate the users of BSL.

BSL

Labour MP Rosie Cooper brought in a private bill to change this and during the Commons debate, she described her experiences growing up with deaf parents and the extra responsibilities she had to take on from a young age due to the lack of resources being in place to accommodate for her parent’s needs. One of Cooper’s examples from her childhood was the memory of having to book a family holiday on her parent’s behalf when she was just four years old.

Urging MPs to support her legislation, she said: “For every deaf person like my parents, who’ve been ignored, misunderstood, or even treated as unintelligent for simply relying on BSL, this recognition will be clear and will be a message that their language is equal and should be treated as equal.”

Chair of the British Deaf Association, David Buxton, said: “This bill has been 19 years in the making. Deaf people in Britain never gave up hope that their language would one day be not only recognised in law but also protected and promoted so that deaf people are finally able to access information and services and achieve their potential on an equal basis with their fellow hearing citizens.”

The bill, which would require public bodies to promote the language, passed its first hurdle in the Commons on Friday and by securing government support, there is a significant increase in the likelihood of the bill being passed. If the bill does pass, a BSL council will be formed to promote the use of BSL and advise the government on how the use of BSL can be put in place across services.

Now that the bill has been approved at second reading, it will now move to a committee stage where MR’s will go through the bill line-by-line.