What is the British Sign Language Bill and why does it matter so much?

Credit: PA

Most people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment use sign language as a visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expression, and body language.

There are around 11 million people who are deaf or hard of hearing across the UK, with an estimated 151,000 British Sign Language (BSL) users.

What is British Sign Language?

This is the most common form of sign language in Britain and has its own grammatical structure and syntax.

It is not dependent nor is it strongly related to spoken English and is the preferred language of tens of thousands of people in the UK, according to British Sign.

There are around 90,000 deaf people in the UK that rely on BSL.

In 2003, the Government recognised BSL as an official minority language, but it has no legal protection

Campaigners are now pushing for it to be recognised as an official language in the UK.

How many types of sign language is there?

There are more than 300 different types of sign languages that are used around the world, which vary from nation to nation.

Even in countries where the same language is spoken, sign language can have many different "regional accents" that can vary people's use and understanding.

Along with BSL, one of the most widely used type of sign language is Chinese Sign Language (CSL or ZGS), which has up to 20 million users.

British Sign Language is used by an estimated 90,000 across the UK. Credit: PA

What is the British Sign Language bill?

On Friday 28 January 2022, Lancashire's Labour MP Rosie Cooper brought forward her British Sign Language (BSL) Bill for its second reading in the Houses of Parliament.

If the Bill passes into law, an act will make BSL an official status of language and in turn increase public awareness.

Government Departments and public bodies would also be required to follow new guidance to meet the needs of thousands of BSL users across the UK.

MP Rosie Cooper, who had deaf parents, has pushed for the law to be changed. Credit: ITV News

Why is the BSL bill so important for deaf people?

The BSL bill matters as it will increase public awareness around deafness and create a more inclusive and accessible society.

Campaigner Rosie Cooper MP, whose parents were both deaf, said: "My Bill aims to help put deaf BSL users on a more equal playing field with everyone else, to require the Government to work with deaf people to develop guidance on how public bodies should enable the use of BSL across their services."

British Sign Language should be made ‘official’, says Strictly Come Dancing winner Rose Ayling-Ellis. Credit: PA / BBC

Who has campaigned for the change in law?

Along with Rosie Cooper, Eastenders actress Rose Ayling-Ennis, who made history as the first deaf contestant in Strictly Come Dancing, had raised the profile for the need for BSL.

After Rose and partner Giovanni performed on the BBC show, the British Sign Language (BSL) Courses website saw a 2,844% increase in signups.

She has worked alongside the Lancashire MP to get BSL recognised as a language.

How can I learn British Sign Language?

The quickest and easiest way to begin learning British Sign Language is by taking an online course with British Sign.

You can also find an evening class in your area please visiting this website.