Strictly winner Rose Ayling-Ellis urges MPs to make British Sign Language official ahead of debate

Rose Ayling-Ellis celebrates her Strictly win with dance partner Giovanni Pernice. Credit: PA

Strictly Come Dancing champion Rose Ayling-Ellis has renewed her call for British Sign Language to be given legal status in the UK.

Ayling-Ellis, an EastEnders actress and Strictly's first deaf contestant, made a fresh appeal ahead of a parliamentary debate on Friday.

"Parliament will be debating whether or not to make BSL a legally recognised language. Let make this happen! #SignTheBill," Ayling-Ellis tweeted.

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

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has introduced a British Sign Language Bill to the House of Commons, in a bid to change BSL's status. The Bill proposes that should BSL be made official, public services and information will become more accessible to an estimated 87,000 BSL users in the UK.

Ms Cooper, whose parents are both profoundly deaf, said a limited use of BSL by public bodies means deaf people "have to fight every day to be heard or listened to".

The British Deaf Association echoed this sentiment, adding that legal protection could enable BSL users to have "full and equal access to education, employment, public services such as the NHS, opportunities to follow and participate in political debates and issues, sit on a jury, and play a greater role in their local communities".

In 2021's Strictly series, Ayling-Ellis and her professional dance partner Giovanni Pernice honoured the deaf community in one of the year's standout TV moments.The pair danced to Symphony by Clean Bandit, but the music cut out for a segment and the pair danced in silence.

Ms Cooper, who has been in contact with Ayling-Ellis about the bill, praised the Strictly champ for raising awareness of deafness on a national platform.

“It has been over six months since I introduced my British Sign Language Bill into Parliament and chose 28 January as the date for the debate," the MP added.

"The timing couldn’t have been better! Rose Ayling-Ellis has brought this incredibly important issue into every living room via TV screens across the country while she conquered Strictly Come Dancing!"

Listen to the ITV News entertainment podcast, Unscripted

The second reading of the Bill, which is the first time MPs get the chance to debate it, is on Friday.

If it passes this stage it will move to a committee stage and third reading later in the year, greatly increasing its chances of becoming law.