Signature fully supports the British Deaf Association’s (BDA) call for a British Sign Language (BSL) Act.
Giving evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability – the first time Lords have taken evidence in sign language – Terry Riley and David Buxton of the BDA said a BSL Act is needed to
- recognise BSL as an official minority language of the UK, making access in the language a legal right;
- create a BSL Commissioner, who would make sure that access is provided, and public and private organisations meet their legal obligations under the European Charter, the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act with respect to BSL and the people who use it; and
- put the regulation of sign language interpreters on a statutory footing, thereby making sure access is meaningful and protecting the public by driving up standards.
Jim Edwards, chief executive of Signature, said: “The BDA and the Deaf community has the full support of Signature in aiming for minority language recognition of BSL.
“It’s time it was recognised that BSL is not a language of choice, but one of necessity. Unlike speakers of Cornish or Welsh, for many people BSL is the only option.
“As we said in September when we submitted evidence to the Committee’s inquiry, we don’t think any more equality legislation is needed. Whilst the Equality Act may be imperfect, the mechanisms exist.
“What is needed is legal recognition of the language and someone to make sure equal access for BSL users is delivered. A commissioner will help challenge discrimination. And they will help us spread the word that BSL is a language like any other.
“We recognise, as indicated by Baroness Deech, the issue of the cost of providing access in the language. However, by increasing the number of sign language interpreters and using technology where appropriate, we believe cost doesn’t need to be a barrier to equality.
“We therefore look forward to submitting evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness inquiry into the cost of recognising BSL as a minority language, and to working with all our colleagues to make this aspiration a reality.”