Census tells us 13,000 BSL users in Scotland

On 26 September, the key results on population, ethnicity, identity, language, religion, health, housing and accommodation from the 2011 Census in Scotland were released.


Interestingly, there is an enormous disparity between the number of people who identify their first language as British Sign Language (BSL) being reported in the Scotland Census, compared to the UK Census. The results of the UK Census showed that there were 22,000 BSL users compared to 13,000 in Scotland.


Leading deaf organisations such as Signature were surprised by the UK Census figures.  It was expected that a much higher percentage of the population would tick the box to say that BSL is their first language, as we believe that there are far more than 22,000 BSL users living in the UK.


Is this because different questions were asked in each Census?


The population of the UK is around 12 times that of Scotland. We would assume that a similar proportion of the population are BSL users. This would mean that there are approximately 156,000 BSL users across the country, a much more realistic figure.


Governments across the UK must act to recognise the needs of BSL users wherever they live. This means that public services must make sure that they are accessible for BSL users. The simplest way of achieving this is by using Sign Safe interpreters who are registered with NRCPD at www.nrcpd.org.uk.


See the results of the Scotland Census here

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