Introduction to the BDA’s Charter for British Sign Language (BSL)

The BDA is asking local authorities and public services across the UK to sign up to our Charter for British Sign Language (BSL). The Charter sets out a number of key pledges to improve access and rights for Deaf people who use sign language. Each pledge requires a commitment, to overcome the disadvantages that Deaf people using BSL face, in order to achieve the stated objective. The benefits that will ensue from achieving the stated objective are also listed.

The five pledges are:

1. Ensure access for Deaf people to information and services

2. Promote learning and high quality teaching of British Sign Language

3. Support Deaf children and family

4. Ensure staff working with Deaf people can communicate effectively in British Sign Language

5. Consult with our local Deaf community on a regular basis.

Trevor Phillips, former Chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission:

"The essence of the Charter is that Deaf people deserve equal access to services which will, in the long-term, lead to better life outcomes. But organisations will also benefit by adopting the Charter. Not only does it add a new dimension to communication with customers, service users and staff; it also makes good organisational sense to become accessible to the many thousands of BSL users throughout the UK."

Why was official recognition so important?

It was hoped that Deaf BSL users would be able to gain access to health services, council services and services by public bodies through front line staff being able to use BSL and the provision of sign language interpreters.

TIMELINE

2003 - ANNOUCMENT OF RECOGNITION – On 18 March 2003 the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK Government announced the recognition of BSL as a language in the UK.

2004 – BRISTOL CITY COUNCIL – Adopts BSL Charter.  They have over 130 video clips in BSL on their website.

2005 – DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL  Hosted the first SignVision conference. It included a review of  progress made in implementing the BSL Charter in Devon.

2006 – DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL – Adopts the BSL Charter. They have 12 local organisations signed up to the Charter.

2009 – Two Deaf Equality Officers organised a conference at Bristol City Council that aimed to raise awareness of the BSL Charter.

2011 – BDA revamps the BSL Charter with the assistance of staff from Bristol City Council, Devon County Council, Deaf Project, Cardiff Council and the London Borough of Lewisham.

2012 – The BDA launches the BSL Charter Toolkit. The Toolkit aims to assist public bodies to self-assess their progress.

2013 – DERBY CITY COUNCIL – Commitment to Deaf people. 26 September.

2013 – LEICESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL – BSL Charter. 12 November.

2014 – NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL NHS TRUST & NOTTINGHAM CITY COUNCIL – BSL Charter. 8 January.

2014 – NOTTINGHAMSHIRE HEALTHCARE NHS TRUST  BSL Charter. 7 May.

2014 – DERBYSHIRE HEALTHCARE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST  BSL Charter. 9 May.

2014 – DERBYSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL – BSL Charter. 23 September.

2014 – LEICESTERSHIRE POLICE – BSL Charter. 24 September.

2014 – BRIDGEND COUNCIL – is the first to use the BSL Toolkit. An Awards ceremony will be held in December to congratulate Bridgend Council on their progress.