What is it?
British Sign Language, also known as BSL, is the main language of over 87,000 Deaf people living in the UK. It is a productive language with its own vocabulary grammar and syntax and just like a spoken language it even has regional dialects. It is estimated that on any day, up to 250,000 people use some BSL. These people can be sign language learners, hearing family members, teachers, friends, interpreters and many more.
Why it is important
Two words: Equal opportunities.
Just like the need for a ramp if someone has a physical disability, learning sign langauge gives Deaf people the access to communication that they deserve.
What can you do with it?
There are 908 registered sign language interpreters in the UK who cover all types of situations, such as the interpreter who sometimes sits in lectures at the university.
Sign Language at the University
If your course offers optional modules it is likely that you will be able to take a Language as one of those. The university now offers BSL Level 1 (for complete beginners), Level 2 (if you have studied it before) and Level 3 (if you have completed level 2). If you start learning in your first year as I was fortunate enough to do, then you will have a moderate level of fluency by the end of your third year. This means that you can fairly effectively communicate with sign language users in a variety of situations, such as at work or in social settings.
6 facts about the Deaf community
- 9 out of every 10 deaf children are born to hearing parents
- Only 1 in every 10 of those parents will learn sign language
- It is estimated that there are 9 million people in the UK who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
- This makes hearing loss is the second most common disability in the UK
- Not every Deaf person views hearing loss as a disability, there is a rich community and culture amongst Deaf people and they have their own history too.
- Lip reading only allows people to access less than half of what is being said so BSL is essential to give Deaf people access to information.