Yesterday, the London Assembly agreed a motion that calls on the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to sign up to the British Deaf Association (BDA)’s British Sign Language (BSL) Charter on behalf of the GLA during a Plenary session at City Hall.
The Charter aims to improve access and rights for Deaf BSL users across the functional bodies.
The BSL Charter aims to empower Deaf people and improve their lives by removing direct and indirect discrimination. It also aims to increase knowledge of BSL and awareness of the issues affecting the Deaf community, ensuring that Deaf people across London are given better access to council services.
Deaf people face many barriers when trying to access information or services, either through lack of awareness or language barriers. As a consequence, the British Deaf Association established the following principles to tackle these issues:
• Ensure better access to information and services
• Promote learning and teaching of BSL
• Support Deaf children and families
• Ensuring staff can communicate effectively in BSL
• Consult with local Deaf community regularly
The motion was proposed by Navin Shah, London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, who is also Ambassador of Harrow United Deaf Club. This motion was seconded at the meeting by Andrew Boff. Harrow Council recently became the second Council in London to sign up to the BSL Charter.
Several Deaf Londoners attended the meeting to show their support for this important motion.
Asif Iqbal MBE, President of Harrow United Deaf Club and BDA Trustee said:
“This is a momentous day in history and a breakthrough for many Deaf Londoners. It was through sheer hard work with Navin Shah AM, who was supportive of Harrow Council’s BSL Charter, that led to the London Assembly passing a motion urging the Mayor of London to sign up to BSL. I’m thrilled at the success of this motion. Now the real hard work will begin as we look at how we can move forward with the implementation of this Charter. I hope the Mayor of London will take forward the London Assembly recommendation and embrace these changes and commit to engaging with Deaf residents”.
Navin Shah, London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow said:
“I am delighted that the London Assembly has supported the motion urging the Mayor of London to sign up to the BSL Charter. It’s crucial that Deaf people benefit from the objectives of the Charter. This is why I urge Boris to embody it in London wide equality strategies and actively promote it to Local Authorities across London.
“I proudly support Harrow Council’s endorsement of the BSL Charter and I will be continuing to actively work with Harrow United Deaf Club on this.”
Paul Redfern, Senior Community Development Manager at the British Deaf Association said:
“The British Deaf Association is delighted that the London Assembly has now passed the motion for the BSL Charter. The Charter is designed to empower local Deaf Groups to work in partnership with service providers and Deaf people. We hope that the Mayor of London will listen to the London Assembly as the charter will considerably improve BSL initiatives within the Met police, transport, fire and emergency services.
“Examples of areas which may benefit from the change include better interpreter provisions for the Police, alternatives to information booths and holograms on the transport system and staff that can use clear communication in the fire and emergency services.”
Dr Terry Riley, OBE, Chairman of the British Deaf Association said:
“Today is an important step in the right direction for the Deaf community. We hope the Mayor of London will implement the Charter as it will improve access and rights for Deaf people who use BSL and encourage more consultation with the Deaf community living in the city. Democracy is the corner stone of our legal system and, by supporting this BDA BSL Charter, the GLA has taken a gigantic stop forward for Deaf people’s equality and rights to participate, which will greatly enhance Deaf people’s lives.
Other cities who have now signed up to the Charter include Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham, Blackpool and Derby. The Charter has also been signed by 13 health organisations and two police services in the Midlands.”
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