Harrow Council has become the second London borough to sign up to the British Sign Language Charter.  The charter ensures Deaf people across Harrow are given better access to council services.

The charter was signed by the leader of the council Councillor David Perry, Mayor of Harrow, Councillor Krishna Suresh, Chief Executive Michael Lockwood, President of Harrow United Deaf club Asif Iqbal and Dr Terry Riley OBE, Chairman of British Deaf Association (BDA) on 15 October 2015 at the Civic Centre. The signing was witnessed by council representatives of the different services and from the borough’s community groups.

The authority already has a strong partnership with the Deaf community and has recently worked with Harrow United Deaf Club to introduce British Sign Language videos on the council’s website signposting where they can access services. 

The charter was created by the British Deaf Association with the aim of improving life for Deaf people by removing direct and indirect discrimination. It also aims to empower Deaf people as well as increasing awareness of British Sign Language (BSL) and Deaf issues.

Councillor David Perry, Leader of Harrow Council said:

“I am proud that Harrow has signed the British Sign Language Charter, particularly on the 125th anniversary of the British Deaf Association. It demonstrates our commitment to ensure our services are accessible to everyone in our communities across the borough.

“Deaf people can face challenges when accessing council services and I firmly hope that by signing this pledge we can remove any barriers Deaf people face when accessing services.  This comes as a result of our strong partnership with Harrow United Deaf Club.  By working together we have made a number of changes across the council to improve our services, which includes the introduction of British Sign Language videos on our website. Today’s signing is a further demonstration of our commitment to work closely with the Deaf community in Harrow, and with our staff.”

Deaf people face many barriers when trying to access information or services either through lack of awareness or language barriers. Harrow Council will now look to further improve and make services more accessible to the Deaf community by implementing the BDA’s five pledges:

  1. Ensure access to information and services
  2. Promote learning and teaching of BSL
  3. Support Deaf children and families
  4. Ensuring staff can community effectively in BSL
  5. Consult with local Deaf community regularly

“BDA are delighted to announce that Harrow Council are now the second London borough to sign up to the BSL Charter. The charter is designed to empower local Deaf communities and resolve conflicts between service providers and Deaf people. We are really looking forward to working closely with Harrow Council to help improve access and rights for Deaf people who use BSL and encourage more consultation with the Deaf community living in the borough.” said Dr Terry Riley OBE, Chairman of British Deaf Association (BDA).

Asif Iqbal MBE, President of Harrow United Deaf Club (HUDC) and BDA Trustee said:

“I am pleased that the council has signed-up to the BSL Charter especially in the BDA’s 125th Anniversary year.  HUDC has been working closely with the council for some time to help make services more accessible for Deaf and hard of hearing residents.  At Harrow Deaf Awareness Day 2013, one of the pledges that that Council made was to sign up to BSL Charter, and today that pledge becomes reality. I also applaud the council for making progress in meeting the pledges of the BSL Charter, including the recent launch of new BSL information videos about Harrow Council’s services. HUDC are looking forward to helping the council to implement the BSL charter."

Harrow United Deaf Club was formed in 2009 to provide support and assistance to the Deaf community.  In addition to supporting the Deaf, the club also teaches BSL to hearing people.