British Sign Language Act

rRose Ayling-Ellis and dance partner Giovanni Pernice

Lorna Paterson, the organiser of the Wanstead British Sign Language (BSL) Project, is encouraging residents to urge their MP to vote for the British Sign Language Act on 28 January

Eleven million people watched deaf EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis win Strictly Come Dancing 2021, in spite of not being able to hear the music. Her triumph proves that with the right support, deaf people can do anything. One way hearing people can help the deaf community to achieve their ambitions is by learning conversational British Sign Language. That’s why I started the Wanstead BSL project.

The objective of our project is to make awareness of basic BSL signs a feature of the Wanstead community. I am a teacher with a BSL Level Two qualification who has lived in this area for 40 years. In March 2020, the onset of COVID-19 meant people began to wear masks in shops and cafés. This was a disaster for the hearing impaired, because lip-reading became impossible. An article in the Wanstead Village Directory produced a positive response, but before long we had to stop meeting in person because of the pandemic. Unfortunately our online sessions were not accessible to everyone in the group, but a few of us were able to cover several topics: finger-spelling, weather, family, numbers, time.

Proposals for a British Sign Language Act, submitted by Labour MP Rosie Cooper, will be discussed in the House of Commons on 28 January. If passed, this bill would give legal recognition to BSL as a minority language. It would also allow for wider use of BSL in the public sector. Please spread the word and encourage your friends to ask their MPs to support the bill. The email address of our local MP, John Cryer, is john.cryer.mp@parliament.uk

Would you like to learn some conversational BSL when Omicron permits? There will be no charge, because this is a community initiative. Email patersonloarn@gmail.com

Author: Editor