Deaf News: York St John University aims to make Higher Education more Deaf-friendly (BSL)

Posted on May 15, 2015

The Language and Identities in InterAction (LIdIA) research unit, based in York St John University’s Department of Languages and Linguistics, has embarked on an exciting new initiative to influence language-related policy in higher education.

The Policy Forum’s inaugural project addresses the issue of Deaf students and academic staff,making a series of recommendations about how to make HEIs more Deaf-friendly.

A distinctive feature of the LIdIA position statement and paper is that they stress Deaf people’s linguistic rights, as users of the UK’s only non-regional indigenous minority language, rather than focusing only on deafness as a disability issue.

The statement and associated paper, co-authored by Dr Chris Hall, Dr Dai O’Brien, and members of the Policy Forum, is available on the LIdIA website at, in both English and British Sign Language (BSL).

Watch the press release in BSL below:

Hall comments: “Scholars in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics are very conscious of the widespread public misunderstandings about sign languages. BSL and the more than 130 other sign languages used around the world have the same structural complexity and expressive potential as spoken languages. Yet many people in the UK assume that BSL is just a mimed version of English, not appropriate for pursuing academic study.”

O’Brien explains: “The Deaf community do not consider themselves to be disabled, but rather members of a socio-linguistic minority. However, the lack of consideration that this is given can create many barriers to Deaf people’s participation in HE. By emphasising the linguistic rights of this population we hope to re-frame the debate about access to HE and encourage HEIs to make themselves much more accessible to both Deaf students and Deaf academics in the future”.

Future projects to be tackled by the Policy Forum will cover the use of inclusive language in HEIs and the problems and opportunities of managing multilingual HE classrooms.

Find out more here:

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