BSL - British Sign Language: 

ISL - Irish Sign Language:

BDA responds to statement by Carál Ní Chuilín, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, to the Assembly on Sign Language Legislation

The British Deaf Association (BDA) is delighted to welcome a commitment from Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín, to publish and consult a Framework for promoting Sign Language in 2016.

The Minister made this announcement to support Sign Languages and the people who use them in the Assembly on Sign Language Legislation on Tuesday 1 December 2015. She stated that she intends to change the following challenges faced by British and Irish Sign Language users in Northern Ireland:

  • There is no statutory protection for either language
  • They are not covered by the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages
  • There is no formal Executive agreed policy or strategy document for Irish and British Sign Languages

The Minister, who has listened carefully to the views of the Deaf community, stated she wanted to support the efforts of Deaf people by providing legislation to safeguard their rights as a cultural and linguistic minority and enable them to access services in their own language.

Dr Terry Riley OBE, Chairman of British Deaf Association (BDA), said: “We are thrilled to hear that Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has committed to publishing a Framework which will promote Sign Language in Northern Ireland. This is fantastic news for the Deaf community and would be a huge step forward for the equal rights of Deaf people in Northern Ireland. We’re pleased to see Northern Ireland following in the footsteps of Scotland, who passed the historic BSL (Scotland) Act in September, and hope other UK governments will also follow suit.”

Minister Carál Ní Chuilín announced her intention to publish and consult on a Framework for Sign Language in the New Year. She has already written to Ministerial colleagues in order to seek their support and commitments. She also announced her intention to engage in pre-consultation through the Sign Language Partnership, with some additional membership.

BDA, a registered charity which has been a pioneer and champion of Deaf people since it was founded in 1890, is driven by two main aims: the promotion of British Sign Language (BSL) – which is a language in its own right, separate and distinct from spoken English – and the right to bi-lingual education in the United Kingdom. The organisation’s vision is one of Deaf Equality, Access and Freedom of Choice.