Conference calls for equality for British Sign Language

by merioconnell on 7 November, 2013

Meri with her youngest child, Sian, who already attends BSL classes

Meri with her youngest child, Sian, who already attends BSL classes

Blog Piece originally written 23.09.13 and posted on the Greater Reading Lib Dem website

Yet again I have had confirmed that I support the right party, which is always a great thing to be able to write. Today the Lib Dem Conference in Glasgow voted to ensuring that British Sign Language has legal status within the UK.

BSL was recognised as a language on 18th March 2003 by the government but has not been given any legal protection. Deaf people who use BSL currently rely on the Equality Act to secure access to information and services in their own language.

Deaf people still do not have full access to information and services in the UK as hearing people do, particularly in the areas of education, health and employment. This needs to change and I am proud that the Lib Dems are taking a lead on it.

The Lib Dems have pledged to push for legislation to recognise BSL as one of the UK’s official languages, commanding equal respect and protection with Welsh and Gaelic. Conference was told that whilst there are 50,000 Gaelic speakers, there are 150,000 British people who use BSL to communicate.

The motion was brought by David Buxton, the country’s first deaf Borough Councillor and CEO of the Deaf Association. Judith Bunting (Parliamentary candidate for West Berks) gave a powerful speech about the positives and negatives of the current situation for deaf people in Britain today.

There were many more positive and affirming details to this motion and within the debate that surrounded it (you can look it up on the conference website), but for BSL users and their families and friends throughout  the UK , this simple commitment will come as welcome news.

Reading resident and working mother, Suzanne Smith, said:

‘Being deaf all my life and facing barriers in everything I do makes life very hard sometimes. Having equal access and treatment for both hearing and deaf worlds would help make the idea of ‘inclusion’ a reality’

‘I communicate by speech and BSL and my dream is for all school’s to offer BSL as a GCSE subject. Deaf people do not need to be seen as different any more than people from other ethnicities are.’

‘Come on, we live in the 21st Century!’

I couldn’t agree more.

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