Census 2021 – British Sign Language

British Sign Language in England and Wales

The census takes place every 10 years. It gives us a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales.

The 2021 Census data shows that in addition to spoken languages, British Sign Language (BSL) was the main language* of 22,000 (0.04%) usual residents aged three years and over across England and Wales.

This is an increase of over 6,000 since 2011 (15,000, 0.03%).

Within England, BSL is the main language of just over 21,000 people (0.04%). This percentage is slightly higher than in Wales, where just over 900 people (0.03%) have BSL as their main language.

Across the two nations, the area with the highest percentage of people with BSL as their main language was Derby (400, 0.2%), as it had been in 2011 (300, 0.1%). One reason for this could be that the Royal School for the Deaf is situated in Derby, so children have access to both BSL and English. For those who move for educational purposes, they may remain in Derby because of an active Deaf community.

The number of people who used other sign languages dropped from 2,838 to 2105 to 1,532 during the 2021 census.

These numbers do not include people in Scotland who use BSL as their main language.

The number of BSL users across the UK is thought to be considerably higher as these figures do not include professional BSL users, Interpreters, Translators etc.

*Main Language – A person’s first or preferred language.

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