West Lancashire MP fights for deaf community – but can it go one step further? 

By Clara Hickman

WEST Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper is hoping to give the deaf community the recognition and establishment it has always needed. 

Cooper is preparing for her parliamentary debate on January 28, 2022 where she will aim to get the government to declare British Sign Language (BSL) as an official language of the UK.

She will also request for enhanced guidance to be distributed by the Secretary of State of government departments and public services.

It is a huge milestone for the deaf community and vitally important. It could be the first progressive step of many. As Cooper said “the timing couldn’t have been better.”

2021 was the year BSL and the deaf community was finally given the awareness and interest it deserved when deaf actress Rose Ayling-Ellis took to the Strictly Come Dancing dance floor and won against her hearing counterparts. Fuelled by her determination not to let her disability hold her back, there was a sudden genuine interest from the public in BSL. 

Google searches for BSL courses soared by 488 per cent within a month of Ayling-Ellis being in the competition.

The public has spoken and if Coopers’ bill passes, it will then go in front of a committee and then a further stage to gain legal recognition of their unique language. 

People should be supporting this. According to the British Academy of Audiology there are an estimated 11 million in the UK with hearing loss and approximately 900,000 with severe and profound deafness. There is every need to support this bill. 

Consider this. Could recognition of BSL go one step further? Should the government put BSL on the national school curriculum? 

There is every reason why they should. There is an estimated 50,000 deaf children in the UK who rely on sign language. These children are growing up in a predominantly hearing society. Their language is not recognised or understood.

They are having to fight every day to be heard and for even the slightest understanding of their language. It must be exhausting and it should not be like this. Deaf children are humans who happen to communicate using a different language to the spoken English language but one which is equally important. 

The National Deaf Childrens’ Society have recorded 78 per cent of deaf children attend mainstream schools. Consider how they must feel, knowing their hearing peers do not understand any of their language. Ostracised. Unimportant. Lonely. Without their language being taught it prevents them from getting a fair and equal education. That is something everyone has a right to. 

If BSL was taught in schools, feelings of inclusivity in deaf children would rise. As it is, there is a huge communication barrier between them and their hearing peers which must cause feelings of isolation. 

There have been many studies exploring the affects of social isolation. Researchers Cacioppo and Hawkey explored the affects which can often stem from social isolation and found continuous isolation can cause phsyical and emotional issues such as, sleep deprivation, depression and psychological well-being. 

Deaf children experience social isolation from a young age. As BSL is not taught in schools, lots must feel a prolonged sense of estrangement throughout their school years, as they would be unable to communicate with their peers. They are potentially at risk of mental health issues which could further affect their chances of getting an education.

If BSL was on the curriculum, it would help break down that barrier. Hearing children would develop an understanding of the language and it would help integration with deaf children and hearing children. It would encourage a mutual understanding and respect. It would teach more effective communication, not to mention the chance for hearing children to learn a new skill which will be valuable throughout their life. 

School is there to equip children with the necessary knowledge and skills to have a fullfilling future. Without BSL being on the curriculum, deaf children are at a disadvantage from an early age. If hearing children had a sound knowledge of BSL that they can take into adult-hood, that immediately creates more access to opportunities for deaf children in the future. For example, any necessary adjustments could be made when going for a job interview. There could be some communication so deaf people would feel less pressure and have the same chance of getting their chosen job as the hearing applicants. 

All in all, they would have more access to everything in society. 

Learning BSL as children would increase the chances of expanding their regular social circle. It is natural to want to keep among people who are similar to you but with knowledge of BSL there is the chance of building a great relationship with deaf people where you can both communicate with each other. This would not only promote a sense of belonging but it would also give people a sense of security that they can be themselves among people even though they do not communicate using the same language. The possible pressure to conform would not be there. Deaf culture is fascinating and friendship between deaf and hearing people can promote further learning of deaf culture. 

If people have seen someone communicate by using BSL, they will see it is an expressive, emotive and beautiful language. It is unique and deaf people are rightfully proud of it. 

Deafness is all around us in society. However, it is invisible. As with all people with disabilities there will be a fear of discrimination. By having the access to learn BSL from a young age, it would equip people with some understanding of it thus helping reduce the fear of discrimination and hopefully begin to ease any stigma around deafness. 

Opinion articles featured on Redaction Report reflect the views of their author, not those of the publication as a whole. Only Editorials display the opinions of our management.

Featured Image: Pixabay

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