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BDA - History

The BDA started life as the British Deaf and Dumb Association (BDDA) in 1890 as a reaction to the decision to ban sign language in educational settings made at the International Congress on Education of the Deaf (the "Milan Conference") of 1880.

The BDDA was set up by a small group of determined campaigners, one of whom was a humble missioner, Francis Maginn, who became deaf from a bout of scarlet fever. He disliked the British attitude towards deafness and made it his mission to improve the quality of life for Deaf people.

Since then the BDA has continued to campaign for Deaf people’s rights and for the widespread acceptance of British Sign Language (BSL).  It wasn’t until late in the twentieth century when linguists proved that it was a proper language that Government recognition of BSL followed.  However, legal status has not yet been achieved.

The British Deaf Association has always been recognised as the only national Deaf people's organisation.  We now concentrate on two main areas of work: empowerment and campaigning.