On 28 April 2022, the British Sign Language (BSL) Act was passed by the UK Parliament, recognising BSL as an indigenous language of Great Britain.
This was a momentous day, following years of hard work and campaigning by the Deaf community, led by the British Deaf Association (BDA) and the Core Group of deaf organisations who supported the BSL Act Now! campaign, sponsored by Rosie Cooper MP through the Private Members Bill ballot, and supported by the Minister for Disabled People, Chloe Smith MP.
To commemorate this milestone, the BDA has proposed that the Deaf community now celebrate National BSL Day every year on 28 April.
Scotland will have its own celebrations on 17 September to mark the passage of the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015 and 22 October to mark the Royal Assent of that Act.
The Northern Ireland Assembly is working on its own legislation to cover the two sign languages used in Northern Ireland: BSL and ISL (Irish Sign Language).
This year, we will be asking the Deaf community and our signing allies to contribute their ideas to our #WhyILoveBSL campaign, telling us what makes our language so special for them.
We will also be launching a competition to find the UK’s first Deaf British Sign Language Poet Laureate – an official poet to represent the Deaf BSL signing community.
This celebration is essential to the Deaf community’s sense of pride and cultural identity and will enable us to continue to promote, protect and preserve our language, British Sign Language.
For the first part of the campaign, we would like to invite BSL signers of all ages from across the UK: Deaf, CODA, hearing, to join us in celebrating National BSL Day.
We’d like you to create a video clip in which you sign to us: What do you love about our language? What makes BSL special and unique for you?
Each clip must be no longer than 10 seconds long. We will edit all the clips together and share a video compilation on our social media channels on 28 April.
So get signing! Please send your clips to email@example.com by 18 April. And remember to post your clip on your own social media on 28 April with the hashtags #WhyILoveBSL #BSLAlly #NationalBSLDay.
COULD YOU BE THE NEXT
BSL Poet Laureate?
The British Deaf Association has launched an exciting competition to find the UK’s first ever Deaf Poet Laureate! (Award)
We are excited to announce that DeafZone has kindly sponsored a total of £800 prize pot, with £500 going to the winner, £200 to second place, and £100 to third place.
DeafZone Glastonbury believes that events like the Glastonbury Festival offer unique opportunities to raise the profile of Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users and gain respect for both their language and culture. Their work is geared towards creating positive contact between Deaf and hearing people at the festival itself so that the latter can engage more positively with Deaf people they later come into contact with.
Deaf Poet Laureate - What is it?
It means an official poet. Their role will be to represent the British Deaf community and to create poetic works in BSL to mark important events throughout the year.
They will work closely with the BDA and will have access to opportunities to perform their poetry around the country.
Competition - Why?
One year after the BSL Act, we want to celebrate our rich, creative, visual language and share it with the nation! This is an amazing opportunity for a Deaf person who loves BSL to show off their creative language skills!
There will be a few judges involved to select winners for the competition. Their names will be announced in due course.
How can you apply?
You don’t have to be an experienced poet or actor. You just need to have beautiful BSL and lots of ideas. When we say poetry, it can be any kind of creative expression in BSL: a visual poem, a performance, storytelling.
Please send us a video clip of no more than 2 minutes of you signing your original creation on the topic of British Sign Language to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 28 April, National BSL Day.
We can also confirm that we have a fantastic panel lined up to pick the winner.
Our judges for the BSL Poet Laureate competition 2023 include:
- Paula Garfield, Director of Deafinitely Theatre
- Benjamin Gorman, Deaf BSL translator
- Donna Mullings, actor
- Nadia Nadarajah, actor and presenter
- Moira Ross, actor
- Jean St Clair, actor and poet
We can’t wait to see your contributions!
The BDA’s Strategic Vision, “Taking BSL Forward”, which takes as its starting point the passing of the BSL Act in 2022, sets out what a good quality of life for Deaf BSL signers could look like in a decade’s time.
It’s essential that Deaf children and their families and carers are supported to learn BSL as soon as possible after diagnosis.
Learning sign language does not prevent Deaf children from learning English.
In fact, it’s the opposite – Deaf children need a strong language foundation while they are young to ensure that they can learn other languages, such as English, later.
It doesn’t have to be either/or. Hearing aids and CIs are no substitute for learning a language.
There is some confusion about what BSL is and isn’t.
British Sign Language is not “English on the hands” – it is a rich, expressive, signed language with its own grammar, vocabulary and conventions.
Sign language is not universal: there are hundreds of different sign languages around the world and sign languages also show regional variation in a similar way to spoken languages.
British Sign Language can do everything that English can do – and more!
We invite you to discover Deaf culture in BSL and celebrate with us this National BSL Day.