British Sign language expansion to adapt to climate change. – Blog

Climate change directly refers to shifts in weather patterns. As a result of increased human activity associated with fossil fuels, global warming is slowly becoming irreversible. When scientists are discussing climate change in further detail, phrases such as “carbon footprint” often arise in communication. For a long period of time, deaf people including teachers and scientists, had to spell out these challenging phrases letter by letter, an effort which is very time-consuming.  

In the hope to make biodiversity more accessible for deaf people, scientists and BSL users have created more than 200 environmental terms. To maximise expansion, scientists and BSL users from the Royal Society and Scottish Sensory Centre obtained words and phrases associated with climate change and pollution from GCSE and A Level course. As of August 2023, 200 terms were added, however, by the end of the project, the team will have added around 400 environmental terms.  


Themes within the Scottish Sensory Centre curriculum of Environmental science terms include: 


Theme 1- Ecosystems and Biodiversity 

Theme 2- Physical Environments and Pollution 


The final 200 terms will cover differing topics such as: 


  • Sustainability 
  • Energy 
  • The impact of environmental change on humans.  
  • Terms will include -Global warming, carbon neutral and deforestation.  


The project coordinator, Dr Audrey Cameron expressed how this expansion would enable full inclusion as it would allow deaf people to be involved in important meetings and conversations- something Cameron had previously been excluded from. A more saturated glossary would widen the participation of deaf people at important summits. Alongside an increase in participation, the expansion is something that is empowering for those wanting to pursue a career in the sciences.  


If you would like to learn some new signs in the British Sign Language, here are a few:  


  1. Greenhouse gases: Both hands in circular shapes move around to represent gases, then put the left hand at the horizontal position and move the right hand, with the index finger pointing, down and back up to the left hand to show the sunlight reflecting on Earth’s surface.  
  1. Carbon footprint: Left hand as a C shape with right hand fingers moving away from the left hand to resemble carbon being released to the environment. 
  1. Carnivores: Two five-fingered claws coming together as sharp teeth.  
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