Introduce yourself to BSL: British Deaf Association encourages the public to learn to sign in eventful first Sign Language Week since the legal recognition of British Sign Language


The British Deaf Association (BDA) today launched the first national Sign Language Week campaign since the legal recognition of British Sign Language in 2022. The BSL Act (2022), which passed on 28 April 2022, recognised BSL as an indigenous language of Great Britain after many years of campaigning by the Deaf community, led by the BDA and the BSL Act Now! campaign group.

Sign Language Week, which will run from 13 – 19 March 2023, is an annual campaign coordinated by the BDA which aims to celebrate and promote BSL across the UK and to protect and preserve the endangered language for future generations. This year’s theme is “Protecting BSL” with the aim of encouraging people to discover more about British Sign Language (BSL), spread the word and learn a bit themselves.

Highlights of Sign Language Week include the UK’s largest ever online BSL lesson for primary school children, a nationwide “Become a BSL Ally” campaign to encourage more people across the country to learn to sign, and a high-level BSL Conference on the future of British Sign Language following the passage of the BSL Act.   

Become a BSL Ally campaign

Throughout Sign Language Week 2023, the BDA will be encouraging the British public to introduce themselves to BSL. Our aim is to build a movement of BSL allies amongst the general public, who appreciate our beautiful, unique language and will help us break down barriers.

We will be sharing lots of videos across our social media channels and we would love for you to join us by posting to your own page from the 13th March.

Rebecca Mansell, Chief Executive of the British Deaf Association, said:

“We want to show people across the country how easy it is to introduce themselves in BSL. We’re hoping to build a movement of BSL allies who appreciate our, unique, visual language and will help us break down barriers and end language deprivation for Deaf people.

Whether it’s your first time learning to sign, or you know some already, we want you to raise your hands and introduce yourself as a #BSLally in BSL today!”

Protecting BSL

The theme of this year’s Sign Language Week is: “Protecting BSL”.

Although BSL has finally been recognised in law, there remain a number of serious threats to its continued existence, including systemic audism (discrimination towards Deaf people) in public services including education, health and social care, ignorance of the long-term damaging effects of language deprivation among Deaf children and young people, the lack of availability of affordable BSL lessons for the hearing families of Deaf children, and the spread of artificial sign systems such as Makaton, Signalong and Baby Sign, which are unintelligible to Deaf people.

Robert Adam, Chair of the British Deaf Association, said:

The majority of our staff at the BDA are Deaf and all are BSL users. Many of them have lived experience of oppression, language deprivation, and barriers to opportunity such as mixed-quality education, and have been marginalised, discriminated against and wrongly deprived of full and equal human rights throughout their lives. This means that as an organisation, we know on a deep and personal level how much work is still needed to deliver Deaf people genuine equity with their hearing fellow citizens.”


UK’s largest-ever BSL lesson for primary schools

The BDA has also partnered with awarding body Signature to deliver the UK’s largest ever online BSL lesson for primary school children on Wednesday 15 March. So far, more than 150,000 children have signed up to take part in the free lesson. If your school would like to take part, visit:

Dr John Walker, Chair of Signature, said:

“We are really pleased to be working alongside the BDA on this Sign Language Week campaign to create an online BSL lesson for primary schools and we have seen an incredible number of schools who have already signed up to take part in the lesson, which is beyond expectations.

We hope this will encourage primary schools to consider including BSL, in their schools, teaching pupils this incredible and beautiful language. British Sign Language involves expression of ideas visually and spatially, and reinforces learning through visual and kinaesthetic association, while enhancing vocabulary and spelling.

At the same time, schools can build inclusivity into a classroom while improving learning for all. We have already seen how successful this can be within a primary school setting through schools like Reigate Park Primary School who currently deliver our level 1 qualifications to their pupils.”


BSL Conference

On Friday 17 March, the BDA will host an inaugural high-level BSL Conference in London to explore what the BSL Act 2022 will mean in practice for Deaf people, how they can hold government departments to account as they implement the provisions of the Act, and how the Deaf community and decision-makers, stakeholders and service providers across the UK can work together to build on the Act to improve the lives of thousands of British Deaf people.

Confirmed keynote presenters at the Conference include: Tom Pursglove MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health & Work; Craig Crowley MBE, Co-Chair of the BSL Advisory Board; Rosie Cooper, BSL Bill sponsor; Dr Kate Rowley (DCAL / UCL); and Dr Rob Wilks (University of South Wales), and many more…

The Conference will see the launch of a new BSL Alliance, an expanded, independent coalition of Deaf organisations tasked with providing input to the Government-led BSL Advisory Board as the Government implements the BSL Act.

The BDA will also share its ambitious draft 10-year Strategic Vision at the Conference, setting out a world in which the thousands of British Deaf and Deafblind people whose first or preferred language is BSL are empowered to live their lives as full and equal citizens and in which their status as a linguistic and cultural minority is recognised, respected and reflected in accessible public services.

Rebecca Mansell, Chief Executive of the British Deaf Association, said:

The BSL Conference will bring Deaf and hearing community representatives together for the first time to understand the implications of the Act, to provide input to the Government-led BSL Advisory Board and the independent BSL Alliance, and to build long-lasting relationships that we hope will make our ambitious vision possible over the next decade.

We dream of a nation with an inclusive, enlightened attitude that recognises the unique linguistic and cultural status of the BSL signing community and consigns audism (discrimination) against Deaf people to history.”

Topics to be covered during the conference include: The future of BSL in the UK; Introducing the BSL curriculum in primary schools; bilingualism and bimodal communication; the campaign for free BSL classes for the families of Deaf children; Deaf education in Scotland and Wales; Best practice from the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015 National Plan; and Embedding BSL in Social Care in Wales.


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