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UK backs bill to give British Sign Language legal status

Women communicating in SIgn Language

The UK government has backed a bill that will make British Sign Language (BSL) a recognised language, pledging to improve accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The British Sign Language Bill, a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Rosie Cooper MP, signals promotion and facilitation of BSL when making public service announcements, encouraging other service providers to do the same.

If passed, it would also see the launch of an advisory board of BSL users to:

  • offer guidance to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on how and when to use it
  • examine how the DWP goes about increasing the number of BSL interpreters
  • make sure 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: Effective communication is vital to creating a more inclusive and accessible society, and legally recognising British Sign Language in Great Britain is 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.

BSL offers a lifeline to 250,000 Brits who communicate through the visual medium, which consists of a combination of hand gestures, facial expressions and body language.

The Minister for Disabled People has worked closely with Labour MP Rosie Cooper and deaf people’s organisations, such as the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and the British Deaf Association (BDA), to ensure the Bill effectively meets the needs of those who will benefit the most.

Backing the Bill is just one of the steps the government is taking to improve the lives of disabled people and those with long-term health conditions across the UK.

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