Time to break down barriers for deaf people in today's society
- Credit: Simon Jupp MP
It was two years ago more or less to the day that Covid press conferences became a regular feature on our TV screens. Updates from Ministers and scientific advisors carried huge weight for what we could do in our daily lives: where we could work; who we could meet; and which businesses could stay open.
It quickly became clear that these press conferences with vital public health information were not always accessible to everyone in our communities. For deaf people in the UK, it felt like they were the last to know about the latest developments or changes that affect everyone in our society.
This situation was thankfully quickly fixed after pressure from MPs. A British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter was put in by broadcasters during televised government press conferences and House of Commons Covid-19 statements.
It’s time for a wider conversation to ensure neither deafness nor being hard of hearing is a barrier to participating in society.
I had the privilege of visiting Exmouth Deaf Academy last year and learning about the challenges they and many other deaf people still face. It is an exceptional school offering specialist curriculum, teaching, and care. I will do what I can to support their objectives and campaigns.
Pupils and staff are fully behind the new law going through Parliament at the moment. The British Sign Language Bill would recognise BSL as a language of England, Scotland and Wales and require the government to increase the use of BSL by government departments in communications with the public.
The bill is a great step towards designing better public services that meet the unique needs of the 151,000 people who have BSL as their first or preferred language.
Also, the Department for Education is working to introduce a GCSE in BSL as soon as possible so it may also be offered in schools as part of the school curriculum.
I’m glad more MPs are looking seriously at how to help deaf people lead fulfilled, independent lives. The bill now goes to the House of Lords before hopefully becoming law in the not-too-distant future.