British Sign Language should be made ‘official’, says Strictly Come Dancing winner Rose Ayling-Ellis

Strictly champion Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dancing partner Giovanni Pernice Credit: BBC/Strictly Come Dancing

Strictly Come Dancing champion Rose Ayling-Ellis has called for British Sign Language (BSL) to be given legal status in the UK.

The EastEnders actress, who was the BBC One show's first deaf contestant, described its present status as a "big problem" for the deaf community.

Although BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the government in 2003, it has no legal protection.

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Ayling-Ellis, 27, said she had spoken to Labour MP Rosie Cooper about her Bill in Parliament, which aims to declare BSL as an official language of the UK.

She told This Morning: "It's been recognised as a language, but it's not been official. That becomes such a big problem.

"I have heard so many stories about deaf people going to a doctor appointment and they ask for an interpreter and they don't refer them an interpreter, so they end up needing their child to translate, or a family member. That shouldn't be.

"Because it's not an official language, we can't do anything about it."

She added: "I've called Rosie Cooper the MP, so I think she's going to start a debate.

"It's passed the first stage but it has to go through the second stage at the end of January.

"If it goes through, and then they have a third one, it will become an official language."

Ayling-Ellis and her professional dance partner Giovanni Pernice defeated Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite and his partner Johannes Radebe, the first all-male pairing on the show, in Strictly's closely fought final before Christmas.

Giovanni Pernice and Rose Ayling-Ellis were crowned Strictly Come Dancing 2021 champions.

Appearing alongside her, Pernice said he had decided to have an interpreter on his upcoming solo tour.

He said: "I think it's about time. Rose opened my eyes thinking about how a lot of people would maybe love to watch the show.

"It's important that everybody is inclusive, we have to be more inclusive in general. And also she's coming to watch the show."

The Italian pro, who joined Strictly in 2015 but had not previously won a series, said he had left his Strictly trophy at his parents' home in his native country.

He said: "My mum and dad are massive fans, so I think it was the right thing to do. It's there with them, hopefully another one to come."

Rose and Giovanni also spoke about performing together on the upcoming Strictly Come Dancing Live tour, organisers of which announced on Monday a registered BSL Interpreter will be provided for every venue and performance of the tour, making it the biggest ever BSL accessible arena tour in the UK.Ayling-Ellis said she was looking forward to dancing again without the pressure of learning new routines. "It's not so intense because we won't be doing new dances, it will be the same dances," she said. "But it's still the enjoyable experience of Strictly. It's nice to slowly end it."

"There is no pressure of the competition," Pernice added.

"You've go there, you enjoy your dance, enjoy every night dancing together and it's not the pressure of this 11 million people watching or whatever. I think it will be more relaxed."

The pair said they would be bringing back their iconic couple's choice routine - which became one of the standout moments of television in 2021.

The pair danced to Symphony by Clean Bandit, but the music cut out for a segment and the pair danced in silence in honour of the deaf community.

"It would be weird for us not to do it," Ayling-Ellis said.

"It was such a special moment that it's good we have to do it again," Pernice added.

"It's such an important dance, you know, it's a statement.

"It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever done on Strictly so I think we both want to do it so much."