Following a debate this morning at the Liberal Democrat party conference, the Liberal Democrats today passed the policy Recognising a Legal Status for British Sign Language, which calls for better access to information and services for Deaf people.
The Liberal Democrats say they are committed to the principle that Deaf people are entitled to identify with their own language and to have this respected, regardless of minority or majority language status.
The key proposals include:
· The recognition of British Sign Language (BSL) as one of the UK’s official languages
· Achieving better awareness of information needs and services for BSL users, particularly in health, education and employment
· The protection of the linguistic integrity of British Sign Language
Commenting, David Buxton, CEO of the British Deaf Association and the Liberal Democrat PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn, said:
“It is very important for this party and other political parties to see how seriously deaf people have been campaigning to get a legal status for British Sign Language. The Government did recognise BSL as a language in its own right in 2003, but 10 years on there has been no further progress towards a legal status.
“Our dream is to see deaf children in the future getting equal opportunities and having the right to learn BSL and English side by side, which will empower them to fully participate and contribute in wider society without oppression or restriction from teachers of the deaf, the majority of whom don’t sign fluently or even promote BSL positively.”
On the BDA website, Dr Terry Riley, the BDA’s Chair, commented: “Whilst the BDA cannot affiliate itself to any one party, we have a very positive working relationship with the Liberal/SDP Party which was the first to introduce BSL/English interpreters at their conference and the first to invite a Deaf BSL user, Christine Reeves, to address delegates.
“The BDA also recognise that our present Chief Executive, David Buxton, a former Liberal Democrat councillor and parliamentary candidate for many years, has been working in his own time to influence the Liberal Democrats to support the BSL Motion, which has brought about this conference debate. He has also met with the Conservative Disability Group and will continue to influence them and the Labour Party.
“The BDA is not a political organisation but campaigns for equality for Deaf people and is keen for all political parties to understand the need for BSL to have legal status. The BDA will be setting up a working group on the legal status for BSL, to bring together different experts to produce a project plan by the end of March 2014.”
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