What is British Sign Language (BSL)

Firstly, what we can see immediately is that British Sign Language is by far one of the most beautiful visual languages! Many people are mesmerised when they see someone signing in the streets, often thinking "Ah I wonder what they're chatting about" or sometimes you might pick up on what you think they might be discussing due to the facial expressions used and you are surprised by how much you can understand because of this being visual.

However, this beautiful visual means of communicating is complex with its own grammatical structure and syntax and BSL is the most common sign language used in the UK.    

All sign languages are a visual means of communicating using facial expressions, gestures and body language.


“150,000 Deaf adults and children in the UK use British Sign Language (BSL) and for 70,000 of them, BSL is their preferred means of communication”  



There are 150,000 Deaf adults and children in the UK that use BSL and for 70,000 of them, BSL is their first or preferred means of communication. However, the number of people that use BSL is higher due to family, friends and work colleagues that use this language to communicate with deaf people. 

In March 2003 the British Government recognised BSL as a language. Success! The fight is over, right? 


BSL still holds no rights in law. You may remember from a previous blog that there was a ‘Spit the Dummy’ campaign. They were aiming to achieve a BSL Act to ensure the rights of BSL users against discrimination….. It’s been a long journey but on the 18th March 2022, exactly to the day, 19 years later there will be a 3rd reading in parliament for a BSL Act! 

More information can be found on the British Deaf Association’s (BDA) website 

Sign Language Week will be running from 14th – 20th March 2022 

This is held on an annual basis by BDA. It is celebrated each year in March to coincide with the anniversary of the recognition of BSL by the British Government in 2003.  

Sign Language Week celebrates it’s 19th Anniversary this year and is an important day for the Deaf community due to this year’s BSL Rally taking place in Trafalgar Square on 18th March 2022!

What can you do to raise awareness and get involved:

  • Ask your company or organisation to consider learning BSL basics or become deaf aware and consider training in the workplace
  • Share content on social media to show your support for BSL
  • Learn the basics of BSL or even better sign up to a course 

The Deaf community have come a long way to see about change! Will you be there to support the cause for a BSL Act? terptree will be there in parliament square and we hope to see you there!

Deaf Awareness and BSL in the workplace – is this something you want to know more about? 

We would love to chat to you! 

Here is a list of sources for this blog – worth a read!:

BDA. (n.d.). BDA Origins. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from BDA: https://www.bda.org.uk/bda-origins

BDA. (n.d.). Campaigning for a better life. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from BDA: https://www.bda.org.uk/campaigning-for-a-better-life

Berke, J. (2014, December 15). Deaf History – Milan 1880. Retrieved from About Health: http://deafness.about.com/cs/featurearticles/a/milan1880.htm

Deuchar, M. (1984). British Sign Language. New York: Routledge.

Ladd, P. (2003). Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

UCL. (n.d.). Marriage Certificate of Thomas Tillsye. Retrieved January 2, 2016, from UCL: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/dcal/bslhistory/beginnings/marriage-certificate

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