Anyone with any link to the Deaf community in the UK can not fail to have noticed the activity surrounding the 10 year anniversary of the official recognition of BSL by the British government. The BDA held a live webcast on the 19th March. Discussions were frantically being had all over Facebook and Twitter.
There was a lot of campaign work which happened to get official recognition. That activity seemed to tail off as if the work was now done though in reality everyone knew this was just one step towards getting full recognition of Deaf rights in the form of full access to services, bilingual education and employment.
Over the last few years since budget cuts affected services on the ground it seems there has been a real sense of apathy in the deaf community. Often the first to notice failings in services, interpreters have been frustrated for years at a lack of interpreters in medical settings and social services. After that courts and police forces suffered at the hands of a large monopoly contract, the repurcussions of which are still in effect. The point is, interpreters see the lack of interpreters daily, not just because working conditions change but they pick up the pieces when they are finally booked.
Lately, there has been an attitude of ‘I didn’t get an interpreter the last time I went to the doctor, it happens all the time now’. What happened to righteous anger?
Well there’s nothing like an anniversary to take stock and look back at what has happened. Many are saying not much. That was the time to galvanise forces, to get a plan together and to take action. It seems that this anniversary will be the impetus now to renew efforts. There was a parliamentary reception, attended by BDA, RAD and Signature, held on the day of the anniversary of the recognition. 50 MPs so far, at the time of writing, have signed an early day motion for the government to report on its efforts and identify the barriers still in existence for BSL users.
In Scotland there have been complaints that throughout discussions on the BSL bill by parliament, the proposed act is becoming weaker and weaker. In England we watch with interest. There may be a BSL Act yet.
With more Deaf people empowered by technology than ever before it could be the perfect time. Recently a new group was set up on Facebook to campaign for a BSL Act in England.
Let’s hope more resources can be found to increase campaigning efforts and that the whole community comes out fighting. Now is the time for less sign and more action.