March 19, 2013

A BSL Act: to do or not to do, that is the question

Last night I posted my thoughts on Twitter (@Deaf) about any current campaign for a BSL Act, as well as discussion with a few people. This blog post is a fuller explanation of those comments.

Personally I think there is only one way to get a BSL Act on the government agenda at the minute, that's through compliance of the UN Convention on the Rights of Person's with Disabilities (UNCRPD). That's it. Any campaign for a BSL Act as stand alone, is probably going to fail and you will be banging your head against a brick wall, years from now. My only exception to this thought: unless of course the Liberal Democrats use their clout in government to push such an Act through on the basis of their own party policy (I am not hopeful).

We are currently living in times of austerity, people are fighting to keep existing services - schools, libraries and the NHS for starters. Many people are being driven into poverty, disabled people are taking a particularly hard hit with the cutbacks in services. There are many people out there who have had their benefits cut and are not in a position to find work, they are having to fight the system just to try and survive. You can be ideological all you like but this is the reality for many people out there. Furthermore, people are finding it challenging to find work, due to the numbers in the job market. Deaf people are probably being discriminated against all the more, due to numbers and people know how to play the Equality Act. My point is: this mainstream reality.

In Wales we have been fortunate to further strengthen language rights, the Welsh Government passed the Welsh Language Measure 2011. It was able to do this as a devolved government and the primary legislation was already there, the Welsh Language Act 1993; Welsh is an established recognised language and it is geographically linked. We do not have these advantages for BSL, at least yet.

Given all the above, this is me being pragmatic (practical) about what can done right now. The UK has ratified the UNCRPD in June 2009. Whilst most of the UNCRPD is applicable to deaf people, there are some very specific Articles which make express reference to sign language:

Article 2 - Definitions
"For the purposes of the present Convention: ... "Language" includes spoken and signed languages and other forms of non spoken languages;

Article 9 - Accessibility
"2. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures:
e) To provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public;"

Article 21 - Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information
"States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through all forms of communication of their choice, as defined in article 2 of the present Convention, including by:
b) Accepting and facilitating the use of sign languages, Braille, augmentative and alternative communication, and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice by persons with disabilities in official interactions;"

Article 24 - Education
"3. States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:
b) Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;"

Article 30 - Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport

"4. Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture."

The language above is broad. How it can be interpreted by one person, does not necessarily the same for another. So a government person could read any of the above and say, "Hey, we meet those!" and a citizen could come to a very different conclusion. Take Article 24 which relates to education. Here the government could say it complies because we have law around non discrimination in education, we have deaf schools, in the classroom we have Learning Support Assistants. I can guarantee every single Deaf person out there would reach a very different conclusion to that, based on their experiences.

The government has to write a report to the UN every three years, to show compliance. As we saw in the previous paragraph, interpretation can be subjective. What about accountability to the people who it really matters? This is where something called parallel reporting comes in. A parallel report is a report that is submitted along with (parallel) any report from the government by organisations of disabled (deaf) people. This promotes accountability. Note: the UN needs as few parallel reports as possible, otherwise things get very muddled. The point is you feed into an organisation OF and they act as a respondent agent.

The last time all this happened was in June 2011, so the next chance to do this is likely to be June 2014 - just over a year from now. That gives people a chance to collate all those stories (they are examples) of how the system is not working. When you have done that, to use them as examples to apply to the above Articles (plus others, that don't make specific reference to sign language but still apply). Within this, those examples should serve as to why the Equality Act is not working, the shortcomings of education and so forth. From that, this can act as justification that the current system is not enough. Why we badly need a BSL Act. You have to look at the UNCRPD as your clout to get the BSL Act, thus the need to jump through the hoops to play the system's game. To do this, you MUST engage in parallel reporting.

It should be noted, the next parallel reports from organisations of disabled people (if they are in touch with reality) are probably going to focus on poverty and basic rights. The reality is, people are suggesting disabled people are dying out there as a result of current government cuts. So the right of life is probably going to overshadow anything else. However, sign language is very clearly included in the UNCRPD so it should have some attention. People need to put a very strong and clear case forward.

For those of you who are interested, the current country reports are here. These reports then go before a UN committee, which examines compliance. The next session of this committee happens to be July 2013. Whether it works or not, depends on your perspective of international law and politics (no doubt WFD in particular will have its own view). Governments do have to maintain face on the international stage, however, how much they do this is open for debate. I am not going to analyse that any further here, as I want to keep this post focused on a possible mechanism to use in a time when it is very difficult to get anything.

Side note: I do not make the above suggestions lightly and I am not traditionally one for compromise when it comes to campaigning for rights. For those of you who do not know me well, I led on policy for FDP from Autumn 1999 until 2002 Up until 2000, FDP was campaigning for BSL recognition under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. I pushed for a shift in tactics because the ECRML comes under the Council of Europe (not the same as the European Union) and subject to the relationship of international law. Secondly, I come from a first language Welsh speaking family and I also remember the protests around language rights growing up.

For me, a BSL Act was a natural course that we should go down, which is why I spent so much time in 2000 researching legal foundations. I spent many hours at the weekend at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth (I was working full time in London), researching the legal framework for Welsh. I was very grateful for Doug's vision and guidance, people can say whatever they like about him but you cannot fault him on his vision. He was very clear about the separation of language issues from disability, a Home Office route, plus the practicalities such as BSL recognition is not about interpreters. I wrote FDP's submission to the DRC in 2000 (including in the US, when I was supposed to be spending time with my family). FDP was the only organisation that called for a BSL Act in the face of everyone else arguing for something much weaker. I get it re campaigning for a BSL Act, I witnessed many people around me including my friends give all they had and take to the streets.

So my suggestion around the UNCRPD is not made lightheartedly. Campaigning under any government is hard work, nevermind one hellbent on austerity. I could be wrong, whatever way, I hope people succeed and build on the shoulders of those before you.

To a new generation of activists: I am particularly pleased native BSL users are leading a campaign, it is about ownership. Hang onto that passion, it is important. However, this game is a long one, people are going to burn out (many of us have been there, got the t-shirt) and when you've banged your head against that brick wall for the umpteenth time for an issue you believe strongly in, it drains you. There is plenty of knowledge out there, tap into it - it can only empower you. You might end up in a battle with organisations, ultimately they need funding to survive and this is not necessarily mean the protection of BSL in law. (It happened nationally in 2003 plus the funding in Wales). Yes you need funding to enforce rights but it should not be project driven. If there is money involved, there will be many people like a bull in a china shop after it. You'll just be standing outside watching it, people will not even acknowledge you whilst charging in. At that point the all nighters you pulled, the money spent out of your own pocket, the family holidays you sacrified, the fact you might have got arrested, the amount your backside froze whilst sitting on a wet road - no-one will remember it. You might not even recognise these organisations or what became of your campaign. Be prepared for that.

To deaf organisations: you really need to start listening ground up (not repeating history), respect activists and get away from the suit bubble otherwise your campaign is never going to be community owned. Anything else starts to resemble a circus and amounts to plastic activists. And can ordinary people have rights and protection, please? Ultimately it is good you are able to return to this and finish the job off.

To everyone: there were many people out there who were instrumental to previous campaigning, listen to them and learn from their experience. Not everyone will have the same narrative but each person carries wisdom. Otherwise it is going to be a case of re-inventing the wheel and repeating mistakes. That's where I'm coming from, take it or leave it as you will.

Facebook: Spit the Dummy Group
BDA Livestreaming, BSL Recognition the Way Ahead
House of Commons Early Day Motion 1167: 10th Anniversary of Recognition of British Sign Language
BDA: Get your MP to sign EDM 1167 to support BSL users
Deaf Heritage - Jen Dodds - FDP Campaign for BSL Recognition
TigerDeafie: Ten years on: from BSL recogition to ‘Spit the Dummy’
BSL ‘recognition’ – ten years on

March 18, 2013

BSL Recognition Timeline: A Work in Progress

I pulled this BSL recognition timeline together some years ago. If there's anything missing that should be added, please say something and I will add it.

16th Century – ‘Survey of Cornwall’
1644 – John Bulwer, 'Chirologia'
1878 – International Congress, Paris
1880 – International Congress, Milan
1975 - Term British Sign Language coined by Dr. Mary Brennan, Moray House in a seminal paper, "Can Deaf Children Acquire Language"
1970s - NUD campaigns [someone needs to assist here, before my time]
1982 – BDA’s Deaf Awareness Week – Manifesto
May 1987 – Public Statement, by BDA
19 October 1987 – Press Release from BDA
26 October 1987 – BDA Press Conference, held at the House of Commons
26 October 1987 – launch of BDA Report “BSL: Britain’s Fourth Language”
1992 – Publication of Dictionary of BSL/English
Exact date unknown – BDA Sign Language Policy Statement
June 1999 – FDP BSL March, London (national)
3 August 1999 – Margaret Hodge writes to FDP
19 October 1999 – A Statement of Opinion, National Assembly for Wales
6 December 1999 – Margaret Hodge writes to FDP
16 February 2000 – Scottish Parliament debates BSL Recognition
1 April 2000 – Tom Levitt MP introduced an adjournment debate
May 2000 – Government DRC to make recommendations.
18 May 2000 – UKCoD meeting Bert Massie asks for recommendations
20 May 2000 – Nottingham FDP organise BSL march in Nottingham
10 June 2000 – Local FDP BSL March in Birmingham
8 July 2000 – FDP BSL March, London (national)
12 July 2000 – UKCoD Meeting to discuss BSL Recognition Submission
1 September 2000 – UKCoD submission to DRC
4 October 2000 – RNID submission to the DRC
October 2000 – UKCoD Bulletin "Recognition of BSL”
7 October 2000 – Bradford BSL March
12 October 2000 – Signworks Launch: Tom Levitt touches on BSL Recognition
14 October 2000 - Bristol BSL March and Recognition
14 October 2000 - RNID Celebrity Chat Show, James Strachan’s Wish List
23 October 2000 – EU: regard sign language as artificial
31 October 2000 – DRC advises the government, and makes recommendations
8-14 January 2001 - The Big Issue article, 'Let Your Fingers Do the Talking'
13 January 2001 – Lancashire FDP BSL March
24 January 2001 – MP wins Euro wide backing for Sign languages
February 2001 – UKCoD Bulletin: to report the BSL Recognition document
24 March 2001 – Manchester BSL March
7 April 2001 – Wolverhampton FDP BSL March
7 April 2001 - Arrrest of six people at Wolverhampton following a road block
21 April 2001 – Brighton BSL March
21 April 2001 - DLF protest after the march (road block)
23 May 2001 – Wolves Six: Magistrates Court, Wolverhampton
8 July 2001 – FDP BSL March, London (national)
7 August 2001 – DRC writes to Maria Eagle, Minister for Disabled People
13 October 2001 – Cornwall BSL March
13 October 2001 – Newcastle Upon Tyne BSL March
2 November 2001 – House of Lords: British Sign Langauge
5 December 2001 – Scottish Parliament: European Year of Languages (BSL)
December 2001 – Maria Eagle asks for a meeting Deaf organisations
31 January 2002 – Representatives meet Maria Eagle
October 2002 – BDA launches campaign for BSL recognition by local authorities
November 2002 – Malcolm Bruce appointed Raporteur to the Council of Europe
16 December 2002 - London Borough of Lambeth recognises BSL
19 December 2002 – MEP amendment adding sign language to e-learning
2003 – Scottish Parliament: Report on Scottish Languages
14 January 2003 – Birmingham City Council recognises BSL
February 2003 – DRC produced its draft guidance on BSL/English Interpreting
13 February 2003 – Welsh Assembly, Equal Opportunity Committee: BSL
20 February 2003 – Scottish Parliament: Education/Cultural Policy Minority Languages
18 March 2003 - Government recognition and £1m for British Sign Language
24 March 2003 – House of Commons, British Sign Language Motion
1 April 2003 – Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
9 May 2003 - BDA Conference: Charter for BSL - towards BSL recognition
8 July 2003 – FDP BSL March, London (national)
4 October 2003 – Bradford BSL March
10 October 2003 – “Deaf pupils win signing assistance for Sats”
6 November 2003 – DWP: Invitiation to bid for the £1 million
10 December 2003 - DWP BSL Information Day [on the funding]
20 January 2004 - Deadline for submission of bids to the DWP
4 May 2004 - DWP announcement for allocation of £1.5 million

Note: I have obviously not included any additional information above, including who did what, any comprehensive list of publications, the policy directions for various organisations including FDP, DLF, regional marches, BDA, UKCoD and the RNID. Or indeed my personal perspective from that time. It is outside the scope of this blog post.

Who got the £1.5 million BSL Recognition funding?

So today supposedly ten years since BSL was "recognised". I have a lot of thoughts which I am not going to detail here. However, I keep getting asked who got the £1.5 million BSL recognition funding, following the government's announcement in 2003. I have this information in my own archives and notes but part of this is also archived online here.

Initially only £1 million was allocated but this was increased to £1.5 million following the bids. The announcement who got the funding came on the 4 May 2004. The money was awarded to:

British Deaf Association
Centre for Deaf People Leicester
Centre for Deaf Studies - University of Bristol
Christian Deaf Link
Consortium of Assessment and Training Providers
Leeds University
National Deaf Children's Society
UK Council on Deafness Consortium

The members of UKCoD's consortium were:

Birmingham Institute for the Deaf
Cambridgeshire Deaf Association
Cumbria Deaf Association
Deaf Direct
Hampshire Deaf Association
Leicestershire Centre for Deaf People
Norfolk Deaf Association
North Wales Deaf Association
Nottinghamshire Deaf Society
Royal Association for Deaf People
Sense (The National Deafblind and Rubella Association)
Sign .. The National Society for Mental Health and Deafness
Suffolk Deaf Association

And Alex Maxwell (DWP) stated at the time, following a FOI request:

A total of 26 compliant bids were received. The 16 compliant bids which did not receive funding were from the following organisations: Small Heath Community Forum Ltd (Deaf Asian Group); British Deaf Association (submitted one bid which received funding); Council for Advancement for Communication with Deaf People; English Federation of Disability Sport Operating Company; Deafax; Harrow Association of Disabled People; Heriot-Watt University; Hertfordshire Business Centre Services Ltd; Jackson & Jackson; Living Options Devon; Mouzer Associates Ltd; The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (two bids); SignPost at Tyne Tees Television; The Sussex Deaf Association (The Sussex Diocesan Association for the Deaf); West Norfolk Deaf Association.

So there you have it.

September 30, 2008

New British Deaf film coming soon!


Hooray, another BSL film in the pipeline... click here to see photos from the filming.

Know of any more British Deaf films being made? Please tell us - we like to know these things!

Further info:
The first Four Deaf Yorkshiremen film

May 13, 2008

The Guardian: The Sign Language Teacher; the Personal Experience of John Smith

johnsmith.jpgThe Guardian has published a hitting piece on the reality of deaf education, through the personal experience of John Smith, who is known for his Deaf comedy:

I went to a primary school for the deaf, where we weren't allowed to use sign language. We were forced to speak, using hearing aids. What was the point of that? It makes me angry just thinking about it. When the teachers' backs were turned, we used to sign to each other.

I learned nothing at school. The teachers told me I was rubbish. I used to get very tense and stressed out. I was good at maths, but I struggled with English. Even now I find writing difficult. I use a lot of "text" speak and struggle with more complicated words. I'll often ask a translator to sign things back to me if there are long words or lots of jargon.

At 11, I went to a mainstream school with a deaf unit. School was OK, but I had no deaf friends living nearby. The hearing children used to tease me a lot. I felt very low and frightened.

Education failed me. I left school with CSEs in woodwork and history. I didn't have any friends. I felt damaged by the education system, angry that I was discouraged from using my own, natural language. I hadn't been taught British Sign Language (BSL) at all. I'd picked up most of it informally.

John then goes onto describe the positives in his life now, which you can read by clicking onto the link below.

The Guardian The Sign Language Teacher

See also:
BBC Video Footage: John Smith, Deaf Comedian

John Smith: Beautiful BSL

Continue reading "The Guardian: The Sign Language Teacher; the Personal Experience of John Smith" »

May 9, 2008

BSL Recognition: Tender to Improve Access & Demand for BSL


Following the meeting with the Prime Minister in February, the Department for Children Schools and Families are planning to announce the publication of a tender for a project to improve access to and demand for BSL.

The relevant DCSF page by Lord Adonis can be found here, and the direct link to the document is here [Word] (the link on their website does not work).

British Sign Language. I recognise the importance placed on British Sign Language by many in the deaf community and their desire to make sure it thrives as a language. Malcolm Bruce MP, the Chair of the APPG on Deafness, has been campaigning for legislation on this issue and for greater availability of signers and interpreters. He and many others here will be pleased to know that later this week my department is inviting organisations to bid for a project testing an approach to improving demand for and use of British Sign Language in a particular area or region. It is important that parents with deaf children are aware of BSL and can make informed choices as to its use with their children. We also need to share the expertise we have in those schools and colleges that use BSL amongst mainstream services.

Comment from GOD:
BSL March 2003 - BannersWhilst this is a practical step for families, and it even makes a government policy statement - it has the language of NDCS written all over it - to counteract all the medical agenda, "It is important that parents with deaf children are aware of BSL and can make informed choices as to its use with their children", it does not go far enough.

This is very much a single department response, and still fails to address the root issues that comes with BSL recognition. BSL recognition cannot be driven by project funding, e.g. more money for interpreters, funding for more websites for BSL. This is not what BSL recognition is about.

Deeper issues needs to be addressed first, and if project funding comes later as a result of addressing these issues, then all good. Continually aiming at short term solutions - whilst good for an organisation's balance sheet - is not in the interests of the greater good.

Ask the Readers:
What do you think? Drop us a line in the comments.

Department for Children, Schools and Families: Speech by Andrew Adonis : Children with Disabilities and Special Education Needs

See also:
The 5th anniversary of apathy BSL recognition
Photo Friday: Prime Minister Gordon Brown meets suit-types to discuss BSL

May 7, 2008

Skype BSL Commercial

Below is a BSL based commercial for Skype, who had commissioned Remark!:

You can watch it in full glory here.

Fantastic collaboration, and good to see BSL being used as a marketing tool. Deaf people after all do use Skype as a communication tool.

Skype: Hello is now “What shall I cook?”
Remark! Skype Commercial

See also:
Sign language in advertising
Pepsi Superbowl Advert
More ASL Pepsi advertising

Video: BSL March 2000

Here's a trip down memory lane, a video by Usher Life of FDP's BSL March 2000:

I think this march have around 10,000 people (am I right?) In the footage, spot Jen (the co-author of this blog), being bossy via her co-ordinating duties. There's also footage at the end of Doug Alker, and Clive Mason MC; however the umbrellas sort of get in the way!

Does anyone else have any footage of BSL marches, or past demos?

Usher Life
Usher Life egroup

See also:
The 5th anniversary of apathy BSL recognition
Photo Friday: Prime Minister Gordon Brown meets suit-types to discuss BSL

March 18, 2008

The 5th anniversary of apathy BSL recognition

Yep, five years ago today, the Government announced that it recognised BSL as an official British language. Whoopee-do!

A few months later, we had another (pre-planned) march through London to push for a BSL Act. This banner was there:


And on the back, it wisely said...


Did we? Umm, no.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - we British Deaf NEED to get off our arses and do something useful without squabbling or saying "oh, he's doing it, you don't need me."

We do need you. More than ever before!

And on a final note - one final question - do you think anyone would ever bother to spend hours making such a fine "world's biggest BSL banner" now, like Millie Vagadama did in 2003?


That was back in the days when we cared enough to do such things.

- jen

More info:

Parliament: Prime Minister agrees to meet a BSL delegation
Government response on BSL & the UN Convention of Human Rights for Disabilities
Parliament: BSL on websites & recognition of BSL

March 14, 2008

Wanted: your videos please!

Does anyone have any digital videos of any of the BSL marches or roadblocks that they wouldn't mind me using for an art project?

If you have any footage - I just need a short clip - that you can send to me on CD, or preferably via email or filesend, I would be very grateful. Comment below or email me at



January 30, 2008

Parliament: Requirement of BSL for Teachers of the Deaf

Sarah Teather (Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform; Brent East, Liberal Democrat)

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

(1) what standard of British Sign Language attainment is required of teachers of the deaf;

(2) what comparative assessment he has made of the educational progress of deaf children taught using British Sign Language and those taught using total communication.

Kevin Brennan (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Children, Schools and Families; Cardiff West, Labour)

Where qualified teachers wish to specialise in teaching children with a sensory impairment, including a hearing impairment, they must obtain an additional mandatory qualification (MQ). The current specification for MQ courses includes the expectation that participants successfully completing the MQ for teachers of pupils with hearing impairment should have a minimum competence in signing, equivalent to the CACDP (Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People) Stage 1 qualification. The Training and Development Agency for Schools is currently reviewing the MQ specification, which has included detailed consultation with the approved MQ providers and a range of other interested parties. The Department has made no comparative assessment of the educational progress of deaf children taught using British Sign Language and those taught using total communication.

They Work For You

January 25, 2008

Almost too insulting for words

Forgive me for losing my sense of humour, but I was definitely NOT amused this morning when I read Deafweekly's report on a "sign language lady randomly waving her arms around during a British children's TV programme." You can read more about it here.

Er, is it real?! Someone, please reassure me either way.

If it isn't, is the RNId quote fake too?

And if is, is it really 2008, or did I wake up in 1968 or something?

- Jen

January 15, 2008

Mixed bag

As the title suggests, this blog post is a bit of a mixed bag, mostly because I haven’t blogged here for a while and things tend to pile up. So, here we go…

Firstly, what is this about captioned radio ‘for deaf people’?! (You can read more about it here and here and here.) While this has been a long time coming, Tony was right in pointing out that deaf people cannot interact with captioned radio by calling in and making comments like hearing people do. I really can’t think why any Deafie would like to use one, apart from maybe to gain access to song words (if music can be captioned? I’m unsure?), or to see what their hearing families/partners/friends/housemates are listening to from time to time. Aside from that, imagine a Deafie buying one and just sitting watching these scrolling words over and over and over again, with no visual simulation, intonation or anything!? How very boring. I’m sure the inventors meant well..!

More importantly, we’ve been wondering what would happen after Malcolm Bruce MP brought up BSL recognition at the Prime Minister's Questions on 12th December, and Gordon Brown agreed to meet a “delegation of sign language users”. Surprise, surprise, the UKCoD appear to have taken over again… or maybe they were behind the whole thing, as Malcolm Bruce is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness, and UKCoD seems to be attached to it in some way (please correct me if I’m wrong)?

Anyway, the latest UKCoD Bulletin, which found its way into GOD’s inbox (*we are NOT members(!)), says that Gordon Brown’s meeting with sign language users is “being arranged and the details will be announced shortly.” It continues…

“To prepare for the meeting the All Party Group are holding a series of pre-meetings to debate the issues that should be raised with the Prime Minster.

The first meeting is being held on Tuesday 22 January at Westminster. Places at the meeting are limited, anyone wishing to attend should please book their place with Jonathan Isaac, Clerk to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness at”

What I want to know is:

1) Who is going to this meeting?! Just UKCoD members?
2) Are they Deaf BSL users?
3) If not, what the hell are they doing there?
4) If so, what do they really know about BSL recognition?

We all know that UKCoD is an ‘umbrella organisation’ which has loads of hearing-led member organisations which are AGAINST BSL and PRO oral, and aim to cure the-awful-thing-that-is-deafness and whatever else. So what does BSL recognition have to do with them?! And what does Joe Deaf have to do to get his view to Gordon Brown? He has to go via an organisation that has to go through UKCoD, and when it's gone through X number of people, is 'his' view still his? I doubt it.

Let’s just hope that the BDA’s renewed UKCoD membership helps somewhat, if they can get a word in amongst all the non-BSL users and audiologists. And yes, I am cynical. I have reason to be.

On the same subject, the NDCS has suddenly become interested in BSL recognition too – correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t recall much happening there before? But anyway, they seem to be going along to this meeting with Gordon. The questions above apply again.

The NDCS is also calling on Gordon Brown to “ensure the parents of every deaf child who uses sign language are offered free, high quality and local child-focused sign language classes to enable the whole family to communicate effectively together and ensure that the child is included in the family unit at all times.”

Great idea… I would have thought that the NDCS would have done this already, as they are an organisation for parents of deaf children?? Isn’t that the kind of thing that they’re meant to do anyway, as well as promoting CIs and the other stuff that they do? Maybe not. I’m also concerned that they seem to think that this is what BSL recognition is about, as well as having Level 3 CSWs in schools. Sigh.

Whatever happens, it is clear that we need someone who knows what BSL recognition is about to go along to that meeting. Not just random deafies who can sign a bit and wear a suit, or people who think they know what’s what because they work for organisations with “deaf” or “hearing” (ha!) in their names. Life is never simple, is it? And no, I’m not biting the hand that feeds me. Hell, if I relied on that hand to feed me, I’d starve to death.


October 26, 2007

Photo Friday: On The Plinth


Taken at BSL March 1999 (wow, 8 years ago now?!) by an unknown photographer. These kids signed a poem called 'Sisters', if I remember correctly, and one of them has just written a really cool blog post which can be found here*.

Who are they?

* Click on the red bit! It's a link!

October 1, 2007

Learn to Sign Week (UK)

It's Learn to Sign Week this week (1st-7th October). Check out the BDA's new Learn to Sign website here!

Also, there will be a Deafie on The Paul O' Grady Show at 5pm tomorrow (Tuesday). Whoopee do!

Not forgetting See Hear is back on Wednesday, in its rather crap new 1pm mid week slot. I still object (see link below)!

Anyway, if you can't sign... this week is the week to learn!


See also:
Save See Hear!

September 29, 2007

Finally! A vlog! In honour of International SL Day...

A rather un-grumpy vlog, featuring Jen, her runaway dog and some trees...

English script:

It's International Sign Languages Day today, and I thought I would vlog from my corner of the world, just to show that, indeed, there are sign languages all over the world.

So here I am in the middle of nowhere - AKA Yorkshire - quite near my house. It's kind of over there somewhere... can you swivel the camera please?


Great, thank you. Oh no, the dog's running off! [LOL] Happy International Sign Languages Day! Oh, one last thing...


September 10, 2007

Diana and Me, by Clark Denmark

The Concert for Diana which marked what would have been Diana, the Princess of Wales' birthday on the 1 July this was televised by the BBC. As part of this concert, there was a series of tributes - Diana and Me - from people who she worked with.

One of these tributes was delivered by Clark Denmark, who talks about Diana becoming Patron of the BDA, learning BSL and delivering an address at the BDA's centenary celebrations back in 1990. For those of you who missed it, or international readers, here's a clip:

August 10, 2007

Statement from Francis Murphy, BDA Chair

At the BDA Congress, we at GOD offered Francis the opportunity to say whatever he liked to our readers/viewers, and he accepted the offer. So, here he is:

... so if you're interested in the BDA and/or Deaf education, get the next train to Southport!


(English translation for non-BSL signers below...)

Continue reading "Statement from Francis Murphy, BDA Chair" »

August 2, 2007

Go to the BDA Congress!

signcommunitylogo.jpgI can't believe that the BDA London / South East Office was closed a few weeks ago, and they seem to have forgotten to tell us! An email to members would have done the job. [ Or even better, a blog! WISH THE BDA WOULD GET A BLOG! I volunteer to help them to set one up, if that is any use (I suspect not, but anyway) !]

Dawn, thanks for the reply to my last post on the BDA - I really do support the BDA and want to see it thrive, as I am sure you understand. So it is with this support in mind that I will be going to the Congress in Southport next week, or at least some of it, depending when I can get time off work. Hope to see many Deafies there to show their support too!

If you're reading this blog, it would be interesting to know if you're going to the Congress, and if not, why not? Comments in the comment box below, please!

There is new information about the Congress here - programme etc - thanks to Tony B for the heads up.


June 29, 2007

Photo Friday: BSL March 1999

BSL March 1999

Who can recognise who, for the benefit of international readers.

Do you have any photos? We'd like to publish these here.

May 31, 2007

See Hear replies...

FYI, See Hear sent this long email in reply to my vlog about the changes they are making:

Hi Jen.

Yes, we are going through major changes, but See Hear continues as the only programme presented in BSL on a mainstream terrestrial channel. We are forever breaking new ground at the cutting edge of deaf television.

We still have a strong core of deaf members of the team. For the first time in five years, we have a deaf producer. We also have two deaf assistant producers, one deaf researcher and one hard of hearing researcher, so, a wealth of skill, knowledge and culture, and a strong affinity with the community. To complement the deaf team members, we have a number of hearing staff, who offer an enormously wide range of knowledge and experience of television, and who share the same enthusiasm for 'See Hear'.

Change of Slots

Television is changing, and how we view our programmes is also rapidly changing. Gone are the days of our entire audience sitting around the living room, tuning in to watch favourite programmes (like See Hear) at specific times. Services such Sky PLUS and PVRs allow viewers to record selected programmes to watch as and when is convenient for them. Self-service is becoming increasingly popular, and we believe it is time for us to change too.

All programmes within the BBC are experiencing budgetary cuts, and See Hear is no exception. We believe, after much thought, that the best way to maintain the quality of the show and still be able to make 38 programmes a year is to reduce the length of the programme to 30 minutes. We can assure you that we will be using the budget to maintain the high production values and quality that the programme is renowned for, and with this extra time and staffing we are now focusing on more investigative stories, consumer items and reality television, as you have rightly been asking for. This does take time and a lot of effort.

What is our new vision?

The move to a midweek slot on Wednesdays in September is an exciting new challenge. See Hear will remain on BBC2, one of the BBC's main terrestrial television channels. With the new time slot we will have a new audience, and will also be looking at stories of interest to the
signing community, as well as the hearing, hard of hearing and deafened who are out there.

Our lifestyles have changed - we have become much more aware of the wider world, and deaf and hearing are merging together. I do accept that for many, change is difficult. But we have to seek new ways to be exciting and challenging, and to meet and attract a wider audience.

Please bear with us whilst we take up these challenges. Over the next few weeks you will see some more fine-tuning as we develop our new ideas and bring them on stream. Two weeks ago we had some great stories in our 'Fostering and Adoption' special, and in last week's programme we had an eye-opening film about the failure of shops to provide working induction
loops to assist hearing aid users. Over the next few months we will follow a young deaf girl having a cochlear implant, and we will explore the reasons for her decision to go ahead with this life changing operation. And there will be much, much more.

See Hear has been going now for 25 years, and with these changes, we aim to continue for another 25 years - and to remain the flagship programme for the deaf.

Terry Riley
Editor- SEE HEAR

May 30, 2007

Mouse: first BSL targeted marketing?

A vlog from mouse, about online translation services, the first for the UK. What's interesting about this, is its online marketing specifically targeted at BSL users. Does anyone know of this happening elsewhere? All other marketing I've seen to date (even when targeted at BSL users), relies on English. Does anyone know of any different?

Disclosure: Although Jen (co-author of this blog) did not ask me to blog this, in the interests of transparency, Jen is a partner in mouse. For the record, I don't have any interest in this company.

May 18, 2007

Parliament: BSL in schools

Yesterday's debate in parliament made reference to the use of BSL in schools.

Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour)

May we have a debate on the increased teaching and use of British Sign Language? Last week I visited Archdeacon John Lewis primary school in my constituency and was pleased to see children as young as three and up to the age of 11 not only singing in English and Welsh, but using British Sign Language, along with all their teachers. As there are two profoundly deaf children in the school, all at the school have taken responsibility for learning British Sign Language. Is that not a subject that we should be rolling out throughout our schools?

Jack Straw (Lord Privy Seal, House of Commons)

As someone who takes a close interest in matters related to the deaf, I applaud my hon. Friend's interest and will certainly look for an opportunity for a debate, possibly on the Adjournment or in Westminster Hall.

Jack Straw MP is hard of hearing, and some of you might remember he opened FDP Conference at Blackburn in 1997 (his constituency). He caused a stir in the UK last October, by suggesting Muslim women should remove their veils.

Question: why are such measures delivered on an ad hoc basis, instead of the government taking inclusion seriously in schools, and introducing measures such as BSL as a language option, on par with French and Welsh?


May 14, 2007

Save See Hear!

PS: Forgot to add: Send an email See Hear to to complain about the cuts!

Full English translation:

Firstly, I'd like to say a big thank you to all of you who commented on my last vlog - I was very touched, and didn't expect it! So, many thanks!

I have to say I laughed at the comment about watching me vlog since my hair was short... you're right; it's getting very long now. Oh, well. I also laughed at the comments from those who thought I was a grumpy old man, and I look too cheerful when I vlog. I assure you, I'm grumpy inside, OK?!

And today I do have a good reason to be proper grumpy, because I've heard that See Hear, our weekly Deaf TV programme here in the UK, is going downhill. Terry Riley, the Deaf Editor, has been doing a great job for a while, but I've been told hearing people are taking over and basically spoiling the show. Our 45 minute programme is being cut down to only 30 minutes! And if that isn't bad enough, as from this September it's being moved from Saturday to Wednesday (daytime). What?!

I'm sorry, but I do have a job, and I don't sit around watching TV with nothing much else to do all day, and nor do other Deaf people I know. We have busy lives, you know! This is us Deafies being swept under the carpet again, I know.

So today I am really grumpy, and I say:




I urge the BBC to please rethink their decision and consider us Deaf people.


May 12, 2007

Yes comment!

English translation for non-BSL users:
Another vlog from me in such a short time! I’m doing well… better keep it up!

I just wanted to post about commenting on blogs. Lots of Deafies like this blog and keep mentioning how they think Alison makes sense and all that, but mostly face-to-face, on MSN, via email or whatever. That’s all really nice and everything, but can we try and change tack, and use the comment box more?

It would be really cool if you’d click ‘comments’ at the bottom and reply after reading or watching a blog/vlog. That way, other people can join in too and get discussing things. It’s great! Discussion is what we want. Plus, all bloggers love comments – they make us feel loved and warm inside – if no-one comments, we feel a bit sad and ignored (!)

I’ve noticed more and more British Deaf people are blogging, which is fab, but I’ve also noticed that some bloggers seem to stop blogging, and I think it’s partly because no-one comments. So, I’m going to try and leave more comments on other people’s blogs (you can leave critical comments too, you don’t have to be nice!), in the hope that we can all interact a bit more and discuss things together. That would be good.

So come on and comment! It’s good for the soul!


May 5, 2007

BSL Bible Translation Project

bslbible.jpgThe British Sign Language Bible Translation Project now has its own website.

I'm only going to focus on BSL as a language here. Irrespective of what your religious beliefs are (even if you have them), this is an important project in terms of raising the status of BSL. Whether the Bible is translated into a particular language has been used as one benchmark in denoting the validity of a language. After all, besides legal recognition raising the status of a language takes many forms.

Wish the site would push the language model a bit more. Who said only Deaf people would like to access the Bible in BSL?

It also states:

Why do we need a Bible in BSL?

Many Deaf people find reading English difficult; it is hard to learn English without access to the sounds of the language from birth.

I hate this sentence. Please someone hit the delete button. It comes across as BSL is the failure option, even though unlikely intended by its authors. This sort of sentence isn't unique on this site, and is seen across too much literature. We don't need to devalue BSL.

In tone, it reads like this: I tried to use English - can't, couldn't, I am a failure. Therefore they had to teach me BSL instead. Sorry about this, but I need help.

Whilst Deaf people's brain might be wired up differently, and there's the exposure to language and even educational opportunity: don't make excuses for using BSL. Some people use English, some people use BSL.

If we are going to raise the status of BSL, it needs to be treated as a language, and is used in the same way as other minority languages around the globe. No apologies or excuses necessary, as it devalues BSL. Instead it has every right to be used in the same way as English, Welsh, Gaelic, or any other language globally.

I can only hope the translation will be disseminated online, and to allow embedding on various other sites. I'm thinking of making this website as a case study from a geek angle over at Noesis, over the need to move towards web 2.0 and also the whole information thing. May take a while, as I've got several thoughts that need covering and so many posts I would like to write.

May 3, 2007

How to flirt using BSL (not)

Paula Cox is at it again, this time "How to Flirt using BSL":

VideoJug: How To Flirt Using British Sign Language

As a friend said, it looks like she wants to be a children's television presenter. Imagine if some random hearie approached you in the pub, pulling such exaggerated facial expressions. Perhaps the video should be called, "How to turn someone off".

Anyhow, 10p to a Deafie to use a phone? Since when did the phone have a minicom, and secondly, I've never seen a minicom call or interpreter come so cheap. 10p terps, please show me where!

See also: Doing the rounds: How to insult someone using BSL

May 1, 2007

Doing the rounds: How to insult someone using BSL

VideoJug: How To Insult Someone Using British Sign Language

Only blogging this, because this video is doing its rounds on mainstream blogs right now. Gadling is carrying it as A Welsh View, and I picked it up somewhere else yesterday.

The BSL is grammatically incorrect in places. Since this person is training to become an interpreter, one has to wonder about the quality of the teaching.

Thanks to this, I can see some of us are really going to get some stupid 'signs' thrown at us in random places, from people trying to think they are being clever. First line, something along the lines of: "Hello, F*** Off".

Update: Just to clarify in response to the comments, this is not me. Its a student interpreter, and I found the video online via various mainstream blogs.

April 11, 2007

Petition for Interpreters in Legal Proceedings

A Number 10 petition petition has been set up around the use of accredited and professional interpreters in legal proceedings. This isn't limited to BSL, but other languages too:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ensure that accredited and professional interpreters are used in legal proceedings, from time of arrest throughout the judicial system, and that 'language agencies' who provide unqualified so-called interpreters should be strictly monitiored and disqualified from providing interpreting services. More details

Further detail is provided as:

Unqualified interpreters are being employed at police stations and at Court, to provide a service that must be accurate and professionally undertaken.

Only interpreters from the 'Nation Register of Public Service Interpreters' should be used for judicial purposes (including the initial stages of an investigation). Members have proved themselves to be proficient, having passed stringent exams, and are monitored regularly.

Most agencies employ unqualified interpreters, many of whom cannot speak English; they are generally unqualified and do not meet the standard required, thus, foreign offenders 'get off', due to poor interpretation services from the outset.

The police, CPS, and Courts MUST use accredited interpreters.

With so many foreign migrant workers in the UK, the NRPSI network of accredited interpreters MUST be used, in order that foreign offenders can be treated in the same way as indigenous Britons.

Whilst I support this, I feel frustrated how little people really understand how things work online. Again, as with my question around the subtitling petition, I immediately ask is the time frame realistic? Waiting one whole year loses momentum, and a week is a long time in cyberspace, nevermind a year. I will have forgotten about this in a month, and the long timeframe discourages me from the urgency to address this. Even if you need time to reach out to others through conferences, and written publications, it is still too long. Do people really need one year to collect names?

April 10, 2007

BBC & accessible online content

If you are interested in forthcoming plans by BBCi to address subtitling and BSL through its website, go here.

March 18, 2007

Token BSL Day Post

I'd almost forgotten it was BSL Day today until I saw Len's latest cartoon (nice one, Len!).

And that's saying a lot, considering how BSL Day used to mean - did I just type 'used to'?! - so much to me. I'd say Happy BSL Day to you all, but there isn't much to be happy about, considering how our Government has done f*ck all in the area of BSL lately, and no-one has told them otherwise. I seriously would, but I got worn out telling them.

So I won't say anything else now, then.


March 13, 2007

BSL on your mobile

If you ever wanted to download signs onto your mobile, this is the place to do it.

March 12, 2007

Languages a must in primary schools, so where's BSL?

Okay, if a government review issues a statement such as this:

A government-commissioned review led by Lord Dearing is expected to recommend that all children should have to learn a language from the age of seven.

Why the hostility towards BSL, as shown in this recent statement from Number 10? And for that matter, since the review talks about languages, why does the BBC label this as foreign languages?


The government has backed this recommendation, but restricts this to foreign language teaching. This gives the impression of excluding indigenous minority languages, however for the purposes of this study could they be included?

The BBC has a Have Your Say thread. I would encourage you to post comments here, re the lack of inclusion of BSL. This was mine:

Why is this restricted to foreign languages? British Sign Language is more useful for communicating with Deaf people and careers related to, yet is not included in this.

When requesting BSL was taught in schools via a Number 10 petition, the response was, "we must avoid over-prescription of what is taught and leave sufficient time and space for schools to personalise their offer to address individual needs and aptitudes."

The government is contradicting itself, and not promoting inclusion.

March 1, 2007

2011 census consultation

You may remember from this post, the 2011 test census for the UK included a question about BSL, and another about deafness.

The consultation deadline has been extended to the 31 March 2007. The consultation questionnaire and documents can be downloaded online, and there's open meetings today in London, Sheffield and Cardiff. Given this focuses in part on the inclusion of minority languages, one has to wonder if interpreters will be made available at the events and secondly, why information about this consultation wasn't made available in languages other than English to begin with? Where was the outreach to these communities?

Because of these lack of measures, one has to wonder if consultation will be fair, and such questions not eventually excluded to please the majority.

February 27, 2007

Government's response to the petition to teach BSL in all schools

You may remember recently there was an online petition for sign language for the teaching of British Sign Language in all UK schools.

The Government has now responded:

We recognise the tremendous value of British Sign Language (BSL) in helping hard of hearing pupils throughout their educational careers.

The National Curriculum, however, has been developed carefully over the years to provide young people with an entitlement to the essential knowledge and skills that will equip them for success in further education or training and in the world of work. It is important that the National Curriculum should offer a broad and balanced education, but we must avoid over-prescription of what is taught and leave sufficient time and space for schools to personalise their offer to address individual needs and aptitudes. The balance we now have is the result of extensive consultation and trialling but it is not fixed for all time and we will continue to monitor and review curriculum content at intervals to ensure that it still meets the needs of all young people.

The secondary National Curriculum is currently being reviewed in order to reduce prescription still further and to create more freedom for teachers to use their professional judgement in designing subject curricula. Across the whole of our 14-19 reform agenda we are developing further opportunities for young people to exercise choice about what they study and how, with the introduction of diplomas, apprenticeships and so on. In this context, we do not feel it would be appropriate to introduce a new statutory requirement to teach British Sign Language in all schools.

It is also worth noting that the National Curriculum does not represent all the teaching that goes on in schools. Teachers are free to introduce other experiences and subjects if they wish to do so, as long as they are also meeting the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum. The SEN and Disability Act, which was introduced in September 2002, means that more disabled children are now learning in mainstream schools, where that is what their parents want. This means that schools are developing a greater understanding of the needs of disabled people and in some schools this may well lead to teachers deciding to offer sign language to help ensure a child with a hearing impairment is fully included in school life.

In conclusion therefore, it is right that schools should have the opportunity to teach BSL but we would not wish to specify that it must be taught to all pupils. We believe rather that this should remain a matter for schools to decide in view of their own local, and possibly more pressing, needs.

* Department for Education and Skills
* Teachernet

Those who have worked in this field will see this response as no surprise, but the bottom line it is still pathetic and avoids the issue. Probably as a point of cost, but it still highlights a deficit in policy around inclusion and the need to recognise diversity. It fails to recognise that the SEN and Disability Act has a number of shortcomings, in respect of sign language. Secondly, it totally misses the point that language can be compulsory, for example Welsh in Wales. It fails to address the lack of status BSL still has, and measures needed to be introduced to raise this, to bring the language on par with say French, as an option within schools.

I wonder if new petitions could be introduced, with its wording to almost argue with the government's response.

February 22, 2007


Am gobsmacked by this! Never thought I'd see a BSL lesson I can't understand(!)

February 12, 2007

Early Day Motion: Legal Protection for and Promotion of Sign Languages

Malcolm Bruce MP has an Early Day Motion in Parliament for the Legal Protection and Promotion of Sign Languages, specifically relating to the Council of Europe and the Charter:

Early Day Motion

EDM 775


Bruce, Malcolm

That this House calls for legal protection of, support for and promotion of British and Irish sign languages in accordance with Council of Europe resolutions, recognising that it is estimated that over 200,000 British residents regularly use sign language, many of them as a first language; calls for the parents of deaf children to be given free tuition in sign language and information and choice over the role sign language can play in their child's development, for sign language to be offered a school curriculum option to increase awareness of the languages and to increase the potential pool of interpreters, and for deaf adults to be given the opportunity to study their own language at degree level and to be given the right to a free interpreter and other communications support services in a wide range of circumstances; further calls on the Government to adopt the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in particular Article 21(b), which calls on governments to `accept and facilitate the use of sign languages'; and requests that sign language users be provided with the resources they require in comparable terms to the users of other UK minority languages such as Welsh and Gaelic, which receive more than one hundred times the funding provided to promote and protect sign language.

Again, core activists have not campaigned for the Charter route, suggesting this route offers too little protection. Who is consulting here, and those in deaf organisations are you actually legal experts? I think not. What worries me is that a watered down campaign is (again) happening, and is miles apart from what people out there really want. Representation: where is it?

In relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, what is WFD doing here? Where is the clear distinction for language?

The other thing, why is an EDM being pursued in a UK parliament, for a European matter?

Bottom line, this whole thing lacks a clear vision.

February 6, 2007

Strategy for Scotland's Languages Consultation

Scotland is consulting on a language strategy until 9 March. Today's press release clearly states BSL, something England, Wales and Northern Ireland could strive for. The consultation is available here.

Date: February 06, 2007 Time: 13:15


Views are being sought on a new strategy to raise the profile of the rich and diverse languages spoken in Scotland.

The Strategy for Scotland's Languages builds on previous work which has been done by a range of language initiatives supported by the Executive and others, and seeks to encourage progress that has been made in different areas.

There is a wide range of language activity promoted in Scotland, extending from language learning in schools to training British Sign Language (BSL) translators.

The strategy contains discussion of these and other key areas of activity, and seeks to highlight the initiatives that are in place and the direction of current policy.

It emphasises the need to equip all Scots with fluent English language skills, as well as promoting linguistic diversity and multilingualism including BSL and ethnic community languages.

The document also proposes the protection and promotion of the Gaelic language, as well as a pledge that the Scots language will be treated with pride and respect.

Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson said:

"This strategy seeks to provide a coherent approach to guide the development of languages in Scotland and to complement and encourage the progress that has been made so far.

"Through this strategy we aim to raise the profile of the rich and diverse languages spoken in Scotland, to ensure that this rich heritage is recognised as a national resource and to encourage people living in Scotland to learn languages other than their own.

"I look forward to receiving comments in due course on this draft for consideration before we finalise the strategy."

The consultation runs until March 9.

January 29, 2007

Number 10 Petition: Teaching of BSL in all UK schools

Over on the Number 10 website, there is a petition for the Teaching of British Sign Language in all UK schools.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Introduce the teaching of British Sign Language in all UK schools.

Go over there and sign it before the 21 February 2007.

January 23, 2007

BSL / English ICT Dictionary

The BSL/English ICT Dictionary has been released, and available online.

This project was managed by DirectLearn, and follows a similar structure to previously released BSL/English online glossaries: ArtSigns, Engineering Signs and Science Signs. Provision of such publications goes some way to raising the status of BSL, in the face of criticism.

As with previous glossaries, it faces criticism in respect of BSL standardisation, and signs being unfamiliar to those who use them. What happens when you use a different sign to what is on a website? It becomes an issue where BSL students and perhaps interpreters start to use it as a web resource.

Correct sign usage becomes noticeable in the context of associated signs relating to mailing lists, and possibly the oldest signs and most distributed signs in existence in UK after signs relating to e mail, internet; as its tech that people in the UK are most familiar with, and been in common usage since 1998.

Is this really the sign for client? Fingerspell blog? A sign for this has existed since at least 2004, and can be found on blogs on the net. Vlog - is not the sign that is used by people who vlog regularly. Where's the sign for Web 2.0, which has been the buzzword for the last 2-3 years? Long Tail? Decentralised networks? Social Network? Synchronise? Blogger? Vlogger? Digital identity? Widget? etc. These are all standard words I would use when discussing tech.

All the above comments aside, any attempt at recording BSL has to be commended, its no small task and takes a substantial step towards any future call for legal recognition.

December 12, 2006

First BSL/English Christmas Card?

Is the card sent out by mouse the first?

Has any other countries created a bilingual card?

December 4, 2006

2011 census, my take

I'm told its silly season out there re picking up on the 2011 census, and who gets credit. My take: who bloody cares. Its done, just everyone else pull their finger out and campaign for something. Reminds me of other campaigns that take place, and just watching everyone jump on a bandwagon as time moves forward.

The need for accurate figures has been around for years, and something I got into back in 2000 through writing the BSL recognition policy document for FDP. Sat in some pub Islington with Doug (Alker), and we discussed figures and the census. How the census could be a by product of recognition (as many other things), and how there was a need for some decent figures. In the following year, someone works at the National Statistics Office, had warned me about how early questions gets decided thus 2001 was definitely out. I then made a conscious decision to watch this one. Within the Deaf community, people moaned but little action taken.

Away from this, I had been involved with family history research, and naturally taken a keen interest in census returns. Over the last year I have transcribed census returns from 1841 to 1901, in a parish spanning 8 miles by 3 miles, for a one parish study I'm co-ordinating. That's 566 documents of data, and RSI and very sore eyes at the end of it. Through my own family history research, where I've discovered half my family was "Deaf and Dumb", via census returns, something previously unknown to me. (This was a standard question from 1851 to 1901). Too many questions came out of this discovery, re how my ancestors communicated, and who to. In all this, my appreciation and importance of national records grew, and the deep desire to make it applicable to modern times. No such clues were visible via census returns now, and became increasingly frustrated over this.

It was via family history I got the wind of the practicalities of consultation time frame for the 2011 census, and via family history received notification of last year's consultation (even though the need for BSL to be included in census returns had been recommended prior to this). I subsequently posted this on Deaf UK, some 20 months ago. Had I not been involved with family history, and being able to overlap two areas, it would have been a bit more difficult.

Interests can influence each other. This doesn't only have benefits for those who use BSL, but for future family historians. They will get to learn about how their ancestors spent their time, and what language was used.

There's people out there with many interests, and with these interests they can bring skills that can be utilised in other circles, and of mutual benefit. I wish more time was spent merging and transferring these skills, with a vision to do so, instead of doing a lot of banging on a drum and generally complaining.

December 2, 2006

The state of things ....

Vlog about Deaf UK, importance of Gallaudet internationally, campaign for BSL recognition.

December 1, 2006

2011 census: question about sign languages & deafness

A test census has been released in preparation for the 2011 census.

For the first time, this includes a question about British Sign Language (Page 6), which asks in relation to language usage:

- No ability
- Understand sign
- Sign

This is a major step forward, and acknowledges that BSL is a language in its own right, it might put to bed conflicting statistics once and for all (only a small number of people use), something that can only be encouraged.

However, here we have a question IN ENGLISH, asking about other minority languages. If the government acknowledges other languages are used in the UK, then it needs to start producing the census in these languages, as it is required to do by law with Welsh.

Where's the BSL version of the census? This could be put online, with a householder code, as an option to respond in BSL. There's obvious questions how to record BSL here.

Whilst other languages have the box to write, it is taking a rather narrow definition of write here. As in pen and paper. Recording (or writing in a broader sense) of BSL has been done in previous decades by video letter, and the advent of the internet allows writing or recording of sign language via vlogs, signed attachments to e mails, and so forth. To exclude this, pushes the assumption that sign language is somewhat of a lesser language.

In addition to BSL, the census allows space for other sign languages, and leaves this field blank. What happens if you know more than one additional sign language, which I can can think a few people might do.

The above was something I pushed for last year at consultation stage, and this is what I posted on an e mail group:

Mon May 16, 2005 11:16 pm

2011 census consultation

An opportunity to push for BSL to be included on the census? I know the Welsh / English / both language question has traditionally been asked in Wales. What about other languages?



Date: May 16, 2005

A consultation programme to identify the topics for possible inclusion in the 2011 Census was launched today by the Office for National Statistics.

A document 'The 2011 Census: Initial view on content for England and Wales' has been published as a focus for the consultation and can be seen on the National Statistics website at:

This provides a first view of what the 2011 Census questionnaire might include for England and Wales. ONS is placing strong emphasis on maximising responses from households and individuals. This might include making the questionnaire less complex and limiting the number
of questions. This emphasis comes as a result of lessons learnt from the 2001 Census.

Reducing complexity could mean significant changes to some questions traditionally asked in censuses, such as people's work and working arrangements.

Some new topics are also being considered. Two key areas are:

* Collecting information on whether people have more than one address or home (a second address) and on visitors present at an address on Census Night. This will improve understanding of how people in the UK live, and, in particular, provide information on those who regularly
spend time at different addresses. This could include children whose parents have separated and people who live away from the family home at certain times for work reasons.

* Income. Information about income in broad bands would be used to identify areas of deprivation to help government when developing policies. A question on income has never before been included in a UK Census.

The consultation deals with potential census topics for England and Wales and similar exercises are being carried out in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

ONS officials will be meeting groups of the main census users during visits to the regions of England and Wales in early summer. Written responses from groups and individuals to the consultation should be submitted by Friday 5 August 2005. Details of how to respond are
provided in the document. The consultation has been designed to allow time for questions to be developed for public testing in 2007.


1. Link to the GROS consultation website:

2. Link to the NISRA consultation website:

The other question is on page 9, which asks if you have "deafness or severe hearing impairment". This is rather subjective, and how many old age pensioners who have been hearing all their life, will end up ticking this box, when they've just got some disposable hearing aid from Boots?

On a positive note, perhaps it will counteract some of the ridiculous statistics that keep flying around, such as the DRC says there's 10 million disabled people in the UK, with that corporate charity saying there's 8,945,000 deaf and hard of hearing.

If there's 8,945,000 deaf and hard of hearing, there can only be 1,055,000 other disabled
including: blind, partially sighted, mental health, wheel chair users, dyslexic, aspergers, autistic, diabetes, epilepsy etc. Right? Wrong?

Parliament debates what will actually be included in the census in 2009. We can only hope that BSL is still included, then roll on to 2011.

August 3, 2006

BSL on BB!

As a big Big Brother fan, I was both gobsmacked and pleased to see bits of BSL on TV today. The BB housemates have an university task, and have to get 'degrees'... Aisleyne and Glyn have to learn 30 words/phrases in BSL for their communication 'degree', which has been sooooooo weird but cool to watch!

(Unfortunately, BSL only made it into the 'communication' category, while Welsh made it into the 'languages' category. Whatever - at least they had a better attitude to BSL than Susie did to Welsh, which she took the piss out of. Also unfortunately, Glyn thought BSL was for blind people. Like, duh. I think he has got it worked out by now, though.)

So we are living in times where we have to be happy to see BSL being used badly on TV by people who have it all wrong. Still, millions of people will see it, and will think they might like to learn too. Come on... you know you want to!!!!

After all, Aisleyne and Glyn enjoyed themselves and were "chuffed" to get BSL for their task. Aisleyne is even thinking about learning to teach deaf kids.... errrrrmmmm....!!

June 10, 2006

Calls for a new Welsh Language Act

Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones has called for a new Welsh Language Act at a rally organised by the Welsh language pressure group, Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society).

How come the same media attention isn't given to BSL?

May 22, 2006

Legalise BSL Now!

Legalize BSL Now.jpg

Cheers, Len.

May 12, 2006

Buy this book...


... especially if you a) disagree with the Gallaudet demo or b) don't understand why they are protesting.

You can buy it online here or here. Go on, it's excellent stuff.

May 4, 2006

So, was the BSL Recognition campaign all a waste of time?

Watch this vlog from BSL Activist first if you haven't seen it already!

Then watch this!

(You might want to press 'play' then 'pause', wait for it to load and then play again)

PS: The Gally protest still goes on. Deaf-In-The-City-Joe makes (another) very good point about it here.

April 24, 2006

More from Len


In honour of St. George's Day (please note we are actually Scottish and Welsh, just for the record (!))

April 10, 2006

A quick question for Deafies

Sorry it's so blurry! Was asking why so few Deafies blog in BSL (vlog).

TIP: Press 'play' and then 'pause' straight away so that the video loads. When it's loaded press 'play' again.

March 30, 2006

This is what happens when you google "BSL Ownership"...

As my mate did, you may find these sites:


March 21, 2006

The Three Evils

The Three Evils.jpg

Cool cartoon by British Deaf Cartoonist, Len Hodson!

March 19, 2006

More thoughts on the BSL situation

TIP: See last post!

Summary: Replying to Daz and Alison; what happened to the £1.5m from the Government, what is being done, and who is responsible for what?

March 18, 2006

Happy BSL Day...?

TIP: Press "play" then "pause" straight away, and wait until the line has got to the other end. Then press "play" again and watch it without the stream stopping or jumping!

Summary: A rant about how no-one is really paying attention to BSL Day this year (except people in Preston, it seems)... and a question: should we really bother marking it anyway?

February 27, 2006

We can learn so much from the Welsh language


January 16, 2006

Some thoughts about vlogging in BSL

Summary: English blogs aren't always accessible to Deaf BSL users.