Update Friday 23rd March 2021
A campaign plan is vital for a winning ‘BSL Act Now’ campaign. A strong and clear plan will serve as a roadmap to achieving our ultimate goal of a BSL Act.
The 18th March 2003 was when the UK Government formally recognised British Sign Language as a language in its own right. It also promised to look into a legal status for BSL. Eighteen years on, we’re still waiting. Waiting for the key to the door to a BSL Act. No more. We’re not waiting any longer.
Why campaign now for a BSL Bill through a Private Member’s Bill?
The current government does not intend to introduce legislation for a UK-wide BSL Act as it believes the Equality Act 2010 is sufficient to protect Deaf BSL signers. There are pockets of support here and there – such as for the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015, a GCSE BSL, a Proposal for a BSL Bill in Wales and promising signs of a Sign Languages Bill for Northern Ireland. But this is not enough. More work is needed to persuade Government Ministers realise that Deaf people who use sign language should be accorded the same legal protection as Welsh and Scottish Gaelic speakers.
Deaf people still do not have access to the same information and services that are available to the hearing population. Deaf people are forced to rely on inadequate disability discrimination legislation to access information in their own language. For example, Deaf people are denied the right to undertake jury service, service providers deny Deaf people’s requests for a BSL/English interpreter, local education authorities deny parents’ requests for BSL qualified support staff assisting Deaf children, and more.
A BSL Bill (Briefing Note) has been drafted – click here to download
This will be the prelude to a call for action to BSL supporters to lobby their own MPs (backbenchers only) - to ask if they (the MP) would be willing to introduce a BSL Bill should their names be drawn out of the Private Member’s Bill ballot. This ballot should take place around May 2021. We also have to take into consideration how we plan to lobby MPs to support the Bill and to work on strengthening our campaign and continuing our quest for a BSL Act.
How to contact your local MP?
Click here to Find MPs - MPs and Lords - UK Parliament
- Type your home postcode and then click ‘Search’.
- This will show who your local MP is. Click on the name and you’ll get your MP’s email address.
- Copy that email address and paste it in to a new email.
- Copy the sample letter (click below) and add your name/surname and full home address and postcode at the bottom.
- Then send email letter to your MP with a copy to BSLActNow@bda.org.uk
Sample Letter to MP
British Sign Language (BSL) Bill – Private Member’s Bill
Today - 18th March 2021 - is the 18th year since the then UK Government formally recognised BSL as a language in its own right. The Government of the time also promised to look into a legal status for BSL. Eighteen years on, we are still waiting. This is unacceptable. The Welsh and Scottish Gaelic Languages have been officially recognised yet our language – British Sign Language – which is the UK’s fourth indigenous language, remains ignored.
Therefore I am writing to you, as my local MP, to ask if you are prepared to introduce a BSL Bill, this May 2021, should your name be drawn in the Member’s Private Bill ballot. Please see a copy of the British Deaf Association’s Briefing Notes with a draft of the BSL Bill.
This week is the British Deaf Association’s annual Sign Language Week with the theme of ‘Sign Language for All’. See http://signlanguageweek.org.uk/ This was set up to celebrate the original BSL Recognition Day (18th March 2003) but we no longer want to celebrate lip-service and token gestures. We want the key to unlock the door to towards a legal status for BSL – our language - via a UK-wide BSL Act.
You may be aware that MSs in the Senedd voted to support a Proposal for a BSL Bill on 24th February 2021. The return of the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont last January 2020 included a renewed commitment to the BSL/ISL legislation framework and there has been significant work on this in recent months. We are hopeful this will become law within the next 12 or 18 months. In Scotland, Members of the Scottish Parliament - from all the political parties – unanimously voted to pass the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015. Many of the UK’s political parties have already committed to supporting a BSL Act in their General Election manifestos. Whatever your political views, your support for this is vital.
It’s a very important time for the Deaf Community and our need for the legal recognition of our language. Our rights and access to information and equality are even more critical now as we have seen due to the impact of the dreadful Covid-19 pandemic with the lack of access, information and services. We do not want to wait another year, never mind eighteen years. We want the key to open the door to a BSL Act now. You can make this happen!
Please confirm you will be happy to introduce a BSL Bill if your name is drawn out of the PMB Ballot.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
Your address and post code