Scottish-born, Clark Denmark, is now a freelance Deaf lecturer, with an MA in Sign Language and Deaf Studies. He has been at the heart of Deaf Studies and BSL teaching and learning, both nationally and internationally for over 30 years
MY HEART REMAINS IN SCOTLAND
be much more powerful. This is why it is a must.
This is about our fundamental human rights. It is the first of its kind to talk specifically about a BSL Act. Scotland have got it right.
It makes me proud because of my Scottish heritage – but we all have to support and encourage this Bill for our future generations.
It is very important to have BSL in education, but we need the recognition of the language first. Once we have that, then we can challenge the decision-makers and say now that we have a recognised language, what about the rights of our Deaf children?
It won’t work if we focus too heavily on the other issues first without the legislation of the language. That why we need the recognition of the language as a foundation first. Education should be treated in the same way, but that’s the next step. First we need to gain our basic language rights.
The BSL (Scotland) Bill Facebook page shows how many of us experience difficulties in everyday life. Without rights and a recognised language – these will continue and it’s awful, tragic even. The only way to avoid this is through legislation.
If the English or Scottish government are worried about the financing or funding they needn’t be because it’s already there. It’s in all the other policies and legislation.
We now just want validation and recognition of these into one place, one law. We want a clear checklist of BSL services such as employment, education, health and communications. Right now, everything is hidden within other polices or legislation. The majority of people don’t know where the information is, so by having one clear piece of legislation that sets out our rights and language, puts us on par with other languages such as Welsh and Gaelic.
We need that first. How we do that goes back to sign language. Teaching people to sign and getting sign language out there in the community. That’s how. This is the first step.
• Born and educated in Scotland, Clark was instrumental in helping develop Durham University’s ground-breaking sign language training course, which provided the first formal qualification for teachers of BSL in the UK.
• Later, whilst Director of Education and Training at the BDA, he was responsible for introducing a number of innovative training opportunities for deaf people.
• When the University of Bristol’s Centre for Deaf Studies established Britain’s first degree in Deaf Studies in 1992, Clark was a natural choice to join the staff.
• Over the next 15 years, Clark taught sign language, sign language teaching, deaf history and deaf politics.
• As a member of the BSL and Deaf Studies team at UCLan, Clark has been a key member of the BSL: QED project, which established the first national curriculum for teaching BSL in universities, as well as various European partnership projects such as Signs2Go.
It was his idea. Invite just one Minister to an Open meeting and put BSL on the map. And it worked, leading to the formation of the Scottish Parliamentary Group on BSL. Now it’s time for a new Act, says Jack Giffen.
“After Scotland was granted home rule in 1999, I as Secretary of the BDA Scottish Regional, arranged for John Munro MSP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West to come to a Rally in Inverness to meet Deaf people. He was impressed with our BSL language that he brought this to the Scottish Parliament, seeking recognition of BSL. But this did not form a Bill at the time and now, sadly, John Munro is deceased.
“In 2000 I presented a play called A Signer’s Dream, about the past and present and future history of our language. It ran for three nights to both deaf and hearing audiences. Shortly after that, the UK Government (thanks to the efforts of Deaf people in England) recognised the BSL language, but no further progress was made.
“In Scotland, there are two languages. One is English, which is the standard language taught in all schools. The second is Gaelic, recognised by the Scottish government, but is a “highlanders” language only taught in North West Schools. In Glasgow, we have a large school staffed by Gaelic teachers. Parents who wish their children to speak Gaelic send them to this school (no English is spoken or written inside the school – only Gaelic). So why then, can’t there be a school for deaf children, using sign language supported by teachers trained in sign language?”