West Lancs MP Rosie Cooper joined a delegation of sign language users and members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness, to meet the Prime Minister on 6 February to ask the Government to give British Sign Language the legal status enjoyed by other indigenous British languages, such as Welsh and Cornish; to improve access to services, employment and cultural activities for sign language users by training more interpreters and making better use of technology; and to provide support for families to enable them to communicate better with their deaf children.
Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness supported the delegation with examples of their personal knowledge of the discrimination experienced by sign language users.
Rosie said: “I want to say how I totally support this. British Sign Language is my first language, I grew up in a deaf family, and yet 50 years on I am still having to act as my dad’s interpreter and that is simply not acceptable. Deaf people are left out and discriminated against because of the lack of communication in sign language. The ability for parents to be able to communicate with their children and equally for children to be able to communicate with their parents is vitally important. We need to appoint a Minister who will be a champion for deafness and who will look at all the issues including access to services.”
Thanking the Prime Minister for agreeing to the meeting, Malcolm Bruce MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness, said: “There are many things we could say about British Sign Language but we want to focus today on the most important issues. British Sign Language is an indigenous language of Britain used by about 50,000 people as their first or preferred language and by a further 200,000 people in everyday communication, however it does not have the same legal status as other indigenous languages such as Welsh and Cornish and as a result deaf people feel very frustrated.”
Members of the delegation then explained to the Prime Minister the changes that would contribute to sign language users being able to fully participate in society.
The Prime Minister asked Andrew Adonis, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools and Learners, the Minister responsible for collecting the data on the achievements of deaf pupils, to also look at the issues raised by the delegation, including reviewing the progress made in Wales to increase the provision of interpreters.
Further details of the meeting can be found on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness website at www.appg-deafness.org.uk.