Sir Mike Penning MP – BSL Campaign Update

It was great to meet up with local British Sign Language (BSL) campaigners in Parliament Square ahead of the debate on the BSL Bill.

The BSL Bill builds on the work done back in 2003 when the UK Government formally recognised BSL as a language in its own right. We now want to go further and get BSL recognised as the UK’s fourth official language.

Many people don’t realise that for many deaf people, BSL is their first language. In fact, according to the British Deaf Association BSL is the preferred language of over 87,000 people in the UK. This number increases to 151,000 people who use the language regularly at home.

BSL is what’s called a visual-gestural language. It has a distinctive grammar – different from English – and uses handshapes, facial expressions, gestures and body language to convey meaning.

There are many hearing people for whom BSL is their first language as well. This is the case for my Parliamentary colleague, Rosie Cooper MP, who is leading on this Private Member’s Bill and whose parents were both deaf.

I am pleased that the Bill has Government support. This means it will almost definitely pass and become law.

Once it is law, BSL users should be able to use BSL to communicate with all Government departments. Government staff should have access to basic BSL courses, there will be more funding for BSL tutors, and better access to BSL at art galleries, museums and concerts.

I am also supporting a campaign for a GCSE in BSL – which the Government are working on. Wouldn’t it be great if we all learned a little bit of BSL at school?

I pay tribute to the work of the local deaf community and BSL supporters in keeping me informed and for their energetic campaigning on these issues.


Photo: Sir Mike Penning with local campaigner Zahra Khaira in Parliament Square

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