The BSL Bill, presented before Parliament by West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper, has today (28 April) received Royal Assent to become an Act of Law.
The British Sign Language Act 2022 recognises BSL as a language in its own right, and creates the requirement for the Government to issue guidance to each Ministerial department on how they should be promoting and protecting BSL in their public services.
The Act also requires the Government to publish a report detailing how each department uses British Sign Language in their communications with the public.
In developing the BSL Bill, Rosie worked closely with Government Minister for Disabled People Health and Work, Chloe Smith MP and many representatives from the Deaf community to strengthen the Bill. Throughout its passage in Parliament, the Bill received universal support from MPs and Lords of all parties and passed unopposed.
Rosie initially presented the Bill to Parliament in June 2021, after being drawn 20th of 20 MPs selected to present a bill in the Private Members Bill ballot. Being drawn later in the ballot gave Rosie little chance of success, especially as an opposition MP.
However, after today’s success she is the first opposition MP in recent history to successfully guide a Bill through Parliament after being drawn last in the ballot.
Rosie Cooper MP said:
“I am delighted that at long last, Deaf people will now be able to say that their language is legally recognised. Campaigners have been fighting for this recognition to be placed in Law for years, so this is an incredible victory for Deaf people across the country.
“The support this Bill received in Parliament has been amazing but was almost unimaginable just under a year ago when I was drawn last in the ballot. After months and months of campaigning with the Deaf community, we now have a BSL Act that will improve the lives of Sign Language users for years to come.
“I grew up with BSL as my first language, both my parents were profoundly deaf, so I saw first-hand the unbelievable obstacles that Deaf people face in very day life. This legislation is a huge first step towards equal access to public services for anyone that relies on BSL, like my parents did.
“This is not the end of the fight, but the beginning. The collective voice of Deaf people in the UK has been amplified, now I want them to use it!”