The British Sign Language Bill, a private member’s bill introduced by Rosie Cooper MP last year and backed by the government, will receive its third reading in the House of Lords today before be enacted after Royal Assent.
The BSL Act will recognize BSL as a language of England, Wales and Scotland in its own right. It is also supported by the duty of the Secretary of State to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to report regularly on what each relevant department has done to promote or facilitate the use of British Sign Language in their communications with the audience.
The Act further requires the DWP Secretary of State to provide guidance to departments on the promotion and facilitation of BSL. The guidelines will be developed in collaboration with D/deaf BSL signatories.
Disability, Health and Labor Minister Chloe Smith MP said:
Today is a momentous day and I truly hope it transforms the lives of D/deaf people across the country.
The BSL Bill will help break down barriers faced by the D/Deaf community in daily life and is a welcome new step towards a more inclusive and accessible society.
I am so grateful for the efforts of MP Rosie Cooper and the wonderful campaigners who brought the BSL bill to the point of passage and proud to have played a small part in its journey.
MP Rosie Cooper said:
Finally, the deaf community will be able to say that their language is legally recognized.
By working across party lines and with the deaf community, I truly believe we have made history by creating a mechanism for deaf people to gain equal access to public services. Their voices will be heard loud and clear and there will be no excuse for not respecting BSL as a language.
The hard work doesn’t stop there though, but the door is now open for the deaf community to make real progress in righting the injustices it continues to face.
David Buxton, chairman of the British Deaf Association, said:
We are extremely happy to see the UK Parliament finally vote to recognize British Sign Language as a language of Britain in law today, after 19 long years of campaigning.
Today is a historic day for the deaf community in the UK and an inspiration to other countries around the world where the national sign language has not yet been recognized by law.
The British Deaf Association looks forward to working hand in hand with government and civil servants to implement and monitor the progress of the BSL 2022 Act.
Although today is a day of celebration, we are aware that this marks the first step on a long road towards truly equal access to public services, information and opportunities for deaf BSL users in Great Britain. Brittany.
Mark Atkinson, Managing Director of RNID, said:
RNID and our supporters join the deaf community today in celebrating this historic moment as British Sign Language clears the final hurdle before being legally recognized in England, Wales and Scotland.
We are extremely proud to have worked alongside other deaf organizations and parliamentarians to support this campaign. We look forward to the BSL Bill receiving Royal Assent soon and to working with the government to ensure the BSL Act makes a real difference to the lives of deaf people in the UK.
The third reading of the BSL Bill is today in the House of Lords and after that it will receive Royal Assent.
The BSL Bill was first introduced on June 16, 2021 and passed the House of Commons on March 17, 2022, receiving unanimous support from all parties.
The Minister for People with Disabilities, Health and Labor has worked closely with Labor MP Rosie Cooper and Deaf/Deaf charities and organisations, such as the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and the British Deaf Association (BDA), to ensure the Bill effectively meets the needs of those who will benefit most.
- Figures from the British Deaf Association suggest that 151,000 people use BSL in the UK, of which 87,000 are D/deaf.
- The BSL Bill recognizes BSL as a language of England, Wales and Scotland in its own right, backed by a requirement for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to report regularly on what each relevant department has done to promote or facilitate the use of the British language. Sign Language in its communications with the public.
- The bill also requires the DWP Secretary of State to issue guidelines on the promotion and facilitation of BSL, which will be developed in consultation with D/Deaf BSL signatories as part of the advisory council.
- As the Equality Act is devolved to Northern Ireland, the Bill does not extend to Northern Ireland, in recognition of the existence of British and Irish Sign Language within the deaf community in Northern Ireland. The UK Government would encourage the adoption of similar legal provisions in Northern Ireland in due course. BSL and ISL (Irish Sign Language) were officially recognized as minority languages in Northern Ireland in March 2004.
- The BSL Bill does not impose any additional obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
- The bill is supported by a set of non-legislative measures, including:
- establish a non-statutory advisory board of BSL signatories to advise DWP SoS on BSL-related matters;
- examine how the government could increase the number of BSL interpreters;
- examine how the DWP could work to ensure that the Access to Work Fund helps BSL signatories;
- and consider how the government can further facilitate and promote BSL.
- The Minister for People with Disabilities, Health and Labor also announced the launch of an advisory council of BSL signatories to advise the government on BSL matters; examine how the number of BSL interpreters could be increased; and ensuring that the Work Access Program better meets the needs of BSL signatories to support them in employment.
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