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15 Years On, The Time For A BSL Act Is Now

19 March 2018 (Huffington Post)

Sunday 18th March marked the 15th anniversary since British Sign Language (BSL) was given official recognition as a language under the last Labour government. This date, which fell within British Sign Language Week, was an occasion to celebrate with great pride, as it gave deaf people the basic recognition they deserve.

I was truly honoured to become the first ever Member of Parliament to ask a question in the House of Commons using BSL, during the week of last year’s anniversary. I have a level two qualification in BSL having learnt it many years ago so that I could communicate with a work colleague, and as Ambassador for the Brent and Harrow United Deaf Club this is an issue which is very close to my heart.

It is estimated that there are about nine million people in the UK who are Deaf or hard of hearing. This includes an estimated 151,000 BSL users, 87,000 of whom are deaf. BSL is a beautiful, unique language and deaf and hard of hearing people deserve the right to communicate and live their lives using their preferred language.

Despite the importance of celebrating this anniversary, we must recognise there is still some way to go until BSL is equal under the law. I am firmly of the belief that the only way to give the deaf community the equality and recognition they deserve is to bring a BSL Act before Parliament.

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