Deaf News: Bizarre Ofsted consultation document uses BSL ‘symbols’ to reach Deaf children

Posted on June 11, 2012

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It’s vital that organisations make their documents and resources accessible to Deaf BSL users, but I’ve never seen anything like this before.

Ofsted’s inspection of adoption support agencies earlier this year included a downloadable document to get the responses of Deaf children and young people.

The document (which ironically, boasts adherence to the Plain English Campaign with the slogan: ‘Committed to clearer communication’) doesn’t offer Deaf children a video of a real, live British Sign Language version of the questions they’re asked to respond to, as you might expect.

Instead it uses ‘BSL symbols’ to get its message across. Take a look…

Producing ‘BSL symbols’ does not equate to making this information accessible in BSL, but Ofsted presumably think it does, because they’ve given the sentences a BSL structure, as seen below:

Images of this type are usually seen in books aimed at learners of BSL , who would spend a while looking at images like this before working out how the sign is supposed to look.

This isn’t a typical way of communicating information to Deaf children and young people and nor should it be. It’d take an age to figure out which sign each image equates to, and therefore to read a document. More importantly, they should be able to understand the questions in their primary language. The actual living, breathing, 3D, physical, visual language that is BSL.

I would love to know who advised Ofsted that this was a way of including Deaf children in the consultation, because the reality here is that they weren’t really included at all.

The worst forms of access are those that seem, on the surface, to offer access, while in reality, they fall a long way short. This falls into that category.

With thanks to @Deaf on Twitter for tweeting this.

By Charlie Swinbourne

The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, training and consultancy Deafworks, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Look, Smile Chat campaign, and the National Theatre’s captioned plays.