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BDA Policy and Campaigns

The British Deaf Association has campaigned for 120 years on the rights of Deaf people and sign language users.

The BDA’s current campaigning activity is focused on three aims:

  1. Achieving legal status for British Sign Language as a Minority Language in the UK.

What does this mean?
Legal status means that British Sign Language will be protected and promoted in the same way as Welsh and Gaelic. This means that information and services will have to be produced in BSL giving equal access to sign language users where there was once a barrier. It also means that in any legal or medical situation BSL must be the prime language for Deaf people this makes it clearer as services has a wide remit

Why are we asking for this?
We want to have the right to challenge organisations that don’t provide BSL as part of their services.  We also want BSL to be accepted in the same way as Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, and Cornish.  Without legal status it will be easier for companies, council services and other public bodies to exclude Deaf people using BSL.

  1. The right of deaf children to be educated in a bi-lingual and bi-cultural environment.

What does this mean?
Language is the route to one self determination and the BDA firmly believes that the Deaf child has a human right to be offered the opportunity to grow up bi-lingual in an education setting acquiring BSL and the English Language where they are free from the restrictions of a single language. Bi-lingual education can offer an in-depth knowledge of two languages and cultures so that the child will attain his/her full cognitive, linguistic and social capabilities. We also advocate that Deaf children if so desired are also encouraged to learn speech but not at the detriment of its first language BSL

Why are we asking for this?
We want to deaf children to have the opportunity to learn two languages.  Research shows that this helps language development – many children have better language skills if they are bilingual. 80% of the world is bilingual and we feel it is important that Deaf children have good English and good BSL.  This helps with their cognitive, linguistic and social skills.   

  1. BSL Charter

What does this mean?
The BDA is asking local authorities and public services across the UK to sign up to the Charter for British Sign Language (BSL) and make five pledges to improve access and rights for Deaf BSL users.

(1) Ensure access for Deaf people to information and services

Pledge: Deaf people will get the same quality of provision, information and standards and the same right to be consulted as everyone else.
This will make more Deaf people (include those who have problems with written information) aware of services and able to access these independently.
It will also ensure compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

(2) Promote learning and high quality teaching of British Sign Language (BSL)

Pledge: Family members, guardians and carers of deaf children and Deaf young people and local authority/public service employees will have access to BSL lessons from suitably qualified teachers.
This will improve communication and bonding between parents/carers, children and siblings, reduce Deaf people’s isolation and improve relations between Deaf and hearing people.

(3) Support Deaf children and families

Pledge: At the point of diagnosis of deafness, health and education providers will offer parents genuinely informed choices, including a bilingual/bicultural approach.
This will increase Deaf people’s academic achievement and job opportunities and enhance family life by improving communication between children, parents/carers and siblings.

(4) Ensure staff working with Deaf people can communicate effectively in BSL

Pledge: Customer-facing staff will have basic BSL skills. Specialist staff will have higher-level BSL skills so they can deliver good services to Deaf people without needing interpreters.
This will improve customer satisfaction and reduce the need for BSL/English interpreters when providing specialist services for Deaf people.

(5) Consult with the local Deaf community on a regular basis

Pledge: Deaf people should have the right to be consulted on services or changes to services that affect them and to have input into consultations alongside other forums and user groups.
This will improve services for Deaf people, empower Deaf people and free them up to contribute more to the local community.

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