Deffo! Wales Deaf Youth Forum are delighted to launch a petition to urge the Welsh Government to improve access to Education and services in British Sign Language (BSL) to improve the quality of life for Deaf/ hard of hearing people of all ages.
There are four main points that the petition focusses upon:
- Improving access for families to learn BSL: when diagnosis is confirmed of a child being Deaf/ hard of hearing, they should have opportunity to learn British Sign Language as well as their parents and family. These BSL lessons should either be free or subsidised. By using speech alone, Deaf Children struggle and fail to develop communication skills fully.
- British Sign Language should be added onto the National Curriculum. BSL should be taught in schools for all to learn. BSL should be available to Deaf and hearing peers within school and they should have the chance to gain a GCSE in BSL. This would then enable society to communicate better through BSL, hence improving access to public places and for Deaf people in employment. Qualified Deaf teachers should teach BSL to all in school, and at the same time this will empower Deaf/Hard of hearing Children and young people with knowledge and access to Deaf culture and Deaf role models.
- Improve access to Education in BSL for Children and young people is the third point Deffo! want to raise as their concern is Deaf/Hard of Hearing children and young people having limited access to Education using BSL and often receive under qualified support so the BSL is not meeting their needs. By learning subjects and other languages through British Sign Language, it will improve the Childs understanding and comprehension, similar to Welsh language users being taught through the medium of Welsh.
- Better access to Services in BSL such as Education, Health and Social Care and public transport. These services should be accessible in BSL to Deaf/Hard of hearing people whose preferred language is BSL making it equivalent to their peers who are Welsh speakers.
Deffo! leader, Danielle Jenkins reinforced how important this campaign is for the future of Deaf Children and Young People living in Wales, where deafness should not be seen as a disability but should be seen as a language minority group. Scotland is now considering the BSL Bill after British
Sign Language was officially recognised in its own right. It is the UK’s fourth indigenous language and is the first or preferred language of 70,000 people.
Danielle said “we are beginning the campaign after seeing how many Deaf Children grew up into adulthood having suffered from negatives experiences in Education and this still continues today where the experiences are mirrored with the younger generation” She went on to say that “this must stop and we need to act preventing more damage to our future generations. We need to be able to stand by our rights (under Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNCRC) in choosing our preferred language. We, Deffo! believe that we should have ‘equal opportunity’ in the society but we don’t currently have the opportunity to be equal. The Welsh Government have the responsibility to ensure both Deaf Children and young people can access information in the language of their choice”.