Will the new BSL charter mean better access for BSL users now Sadiq Khan is Mayor of London?

Sadiq Khan’s campaign to become Mayor of London was fascinating. His signed video (which you can see here) introducing himself and the BSL charter he will introduce to London shocked those in the Deaf Community.  It is rare to see such a prolific politician using BSL to address the Deaf Community directly. Sadiq Khan won the campaign and is now the Mayor of London.

So what about this BSL charter? See Hear covered this in great depth, and so I will discuss the topic in relation to this episode (which you can find here).

Firstly, you may wonder what the BSL charter is, so let’s answer this first. The BSL charter was launched in 2003 by the British Deaf Association (BDA).

It states 5 different ways local authorities and services should improve their access for Deaf BSL users:

  • Ensure access for deaf people to information and services
  • Promote learning and high-quality teaching of BSL
  • Support deaf children and families
  • Ensure staff working with deaf people can communicate in BSL
  • Consult with the local deaf community on a regular basis

It is important to note that the BSL charter does NOT have any legal enforcement.

See Hear looked at two locations where the BSL Charter had been put into effect and how the local deaf community had changed.  Both sides of the coin were examined: looking at places where there had been great improvement; and places where there had been no change due to financial cuts in the local council.

At terptree, we were incredibly interested in what was being discussed by Dr Jim Kyle, who said that the BSL Charter is outdated and doesn’t help everyone who is deaf.

Dr Kyle has created the Bristol Accord. The purpose of the Bristol Accord is to encourage, empower, and develop deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and it does not focus purely on the needs of deaf BSL users but all deaf people.

The Bristol Accord wants to create change within companies, not just councils, by establishing an information centre where deaf people can go to find out information from other deaf people.

This is interesting as it fits in with our ethos; that access should be provided for all deaf people regardless of communication method. This service is provided by other deaf people and is also essential. When looking at the success of the BSL Charter with Leicester Police, it is clear to see that this is due to the strong link with the deaf community. Where the Charter failed in Bristol, there was a complete lack of communication between the council and the deaf community, meaning that the necessary changes were not being made to improve services.

Will implement the BSL charter mean better services for deaf BSL users in London?

Maybe… It ultimately comes down to the attitude of those who sign the Charter. As recognised in See Hear, not everyone who signs onto the Charter will act upon it.

We must also consider the population who are deaf but do not communicate through BSL. How will services be improved for them so that the needs of all deaf people are met?

But it is important to recognise the attitude of Sadiq Khan. I applaud his enthusiasm towards improving services for deaf people. We hope that, should the Charter be implemented, services will begin to improve for Deaf BSL users before being expanded to include those who communicate through other methods.

Let us know what you think. Will the charter make a difference?


Related Post:

Will the New BSL Charter Mean Better Access and Rights for Deaf BSL Users?