The Scottish Parliament is now looking at the BSL Bill and for the first time, they are asking you, as a Deaf person, to say something. This is your one chance to influence the decision and make a difference. The Scottish Parliament is watching – make your signs count


WHAT IS THE BILL ABOUT?

Mark Griffin, MSP has proposed a BSL Bill in Scotland and did what is known as a “pre-legislative consultation”. He was then able to introduce the BSL (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament in October 2014. 

The Bill seeks to increase awareness of BSL and improve the services available for Scotland’s Deaf and Deafblind population. The Bill would require the Scottish Government to produce a national plan for BSL. Relevant public authorities would also have to develop their own plans, highlighting what they will do to increase awareness of the language within their organisations and across Scotland.

WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE BILL RIGHT NOW?

STAGE 1: The Bill is now at Stage 1 of the formal parliamentary process. The Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee will now write a report on the draft bill. To do this they have called for the public, especially BSL users, to provide evidence by 2 February 2015. They have set up a BSL Facebook page for BSL users where you can post your evidence and comments: search for “British Sign Language (Scotland) Billon Facebook. 

STAGE 2: If successful, the Bill will then go through Stage 2 (which involves line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill to tie up any legal loose ends). 

STAGE 3: Finally, after that the Bill will go to Stage 3 (where it is debated as a whole by the Scottish Parliament). As we are now at Stage 1, your views are very important at this point. It is vital to get the Bill right to protect and promote BSL for ourselves and for future generations. If it goes ahead, the Bill will lead to an increase in public authorities using BSL and will help remove access barriers for Deaf BSL users. 

WHAT ARE THEY ASKING FOR?

1: 
Why is it important to make this new law, how will having BSL improve your life? Give us good examples: education, employment, health and legal rights.

2: Will the Bill make sure all public authorities increase their BSL information and help them respond to the demand for services in BSL? Question how realistic you think aim is and how do you believe the Bill can achieve this aim?

3: The Committee wants and needs your evidence, so it’s important to respond to the Committee’s request. If you would like to make a video or write something to the Committee please click the link “evidence webpage”: Visit: www.scottish.parliament.uk/BSL-Bill

HOW CAN YOU COMMENT?

You can share your views via Facebook, including in BSL video. Visit: bit.ly/BSL-Scot-Bill. Please share the Facebook page, sign up to the Group, and start sending comments!

TIPS ON HOW TO COMMENT?

• Answer the questions they’ve asked (in BSL or English) about the Bill. Keep it clear and focused.

They’ve specifically asked for Scottish views – but even if you do not live in Scotland, please comment. You can say this is great model and it would be good for all of the UK to do the same.

Keep it positive. The Bill is a fantastic opportunity to change the future of deaf people and children in the whole of the UK. 

Encourage the UK Government here, must follow right thing at last!

Sign up for FREE membership to the BDA for two years starting from January 2015. This will help the Scottish Parliament to see how many BSL users in Scotland support the Bill.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO GIVE EVIDENCE?

This is first time in British political history that a British Sign Language Bill has been discussed in a parliamentary context. 

Stephen Lloyd MP (pictured left), the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group in the UK government, told the BDA that London is now watching how the BSL Bill progresses in the Scottish Parliament. 

Stephen Lloyd MP plans to take serious action in Westminster if the Scottish Parliament votes for the BSL Bill to become an Act, securing legal status for BSL in Scotland. 

This is a very important time for the BDA and our community, as we have been campaigning for legal status for BSL for many decades, and especially since the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions accepted that BSL was a real language in 2003. 

We have shown this year in our report Legal Status for BSL that the Equality Act (2010) does not deliver BSL rights and has not been able to protect nor promote our British Sign Language. Therefore we implore you, British Deaf News readers, to do something that can make a real difference in your lifetime: support the BSL (Scotland) Bill. 

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE?

Earlier this month, the Scottish Government wrote its own formal response to 
the BSL Bill.

Here is a break down of the Scottish Government’s position:

The Scottish Government welcomes the principles of the BSL (Scotland) Bill, and believes it will promote BSL as a language in Scotland and improve access for Deaf BSL users. They want to set up “a BSL National Advisory Group” and “to consult with BSL users”. That’s important and why your views matter! They think that there should be more time allowed to update the National Plan, from 5 years to 7 years to allow for a more in-depth review.

They said the Bill doesn’t say much about WHAT SHOULD BE IN the National Plan. The Scottish Government thinks it should include things like education, teaching BSL at school, increasing access to information and services in BSL and the shortage of BSL interpreters.

The Scottish Government says it expects to spend about £2m on BSL during 2016-20, so another £4m may be needed to implement the Bill.

Lastly, the Scottish Government recognises the importance of supporting BSL as a language first and then improving access to services and information in BSL. It’s good that they see it as a language first.

WATCH 
it in BSL: bit.ly/bslscotbillupdate

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

1. How can this Bill help change your life for the better?

2. Remember when you were at school, and couldn’t access information? How could this Bill help? 

3. Would it have helped you if your hearing peers had been able to sign, because they’d studied BSL at GCSE instead of French or German?

4. Are you concerned if there were lots more interpreters in 5 years’ time, BUT THESE WERE OF POORER QUALITY? Would you care if the interpreters were online-only instead of face-to-face?

Get your responses in and show your signs, by 2 February.


READER POEM

Imagine a world
Without speaking your language
Your language is English

Imagine you are very ill
You go to the doctor
You try to explain
What’s wrong
Your doctor doesn’t understand you
No English interpreter booked
A few weeks later you are critically ill
In hospital and death is at the door
Unfairness...Lack of access

Imagine you are at school
Sitting in a classroom
Full of children laughing and chatting away in another language, not in English
Isolation...Poor education

Imagine you go to a restaurant
You try to order some food
The menu is not in English
You try to order
The waiter doesn’t understand you
Hunger grows...Lost in translation grows

Imagine you go to a train station
Running for your life
To catch the train to London
You caught it
You are out of breath
Later you realise it is the wrong train
Because you missed the announcement
That the train to London changed platform
Disappointment...Abandonment

Imagine you are at work
You try to ask your colleagues some questions
Your colleagues hardly understand English
Confusion...Frustration

Now tell me
Wouldn’t you wish your English language
To become an official language and an Act, would you?

What about us?
Deaf people and their beautiful rich BSL language?
Would you consider the BSL (Scotland) Bill now for us, wouldn’t you?

WATCH Leah in BSL: bit.ly/leahpoem