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Bill set to raise the status of British Sign Language

A new parliamentary bill seeks to raise the status of British Sign Language and improve services for the Deaf population in Scotland.

The bill would require the Scottish government to come up with a "strategic plan" highlighting the action it would take to increase awareness of the language across Scottish society.

Public authorities would also be required to work on plans, outlining the action they would take to increase awareness among staff.

Labour MSP Mark Griffin, who this week launched his draft proposal for a British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill, said: "BSL is the first language of many Deaf people in Scotland, but those who use it do not have access to the same information as the hearing population. This has to change."

The bill aims to make it easier for families of BSL children to receive free BSL classes, although there would be no requirement for education authorities to produce these.

SNP MSP Nigel Don, who attended the launch in the Scottish Parliament, said: "BSL is the primary language of many Scots who are seriously deaf and it is important that we meet their essential need to communicate effectively with public services. I welcome this consultation on the best way to ensure that BSL is given adequate importance."

There are an estimated 5,000-6,000 Deaf BSL users in Scotland. About 850,000 people in Scotland suffer from some level of hearing loss.

It is thought that 120 children each year in Scotland are born with a hearing loss. More than 1,000 children and young people under the age of 19 have severe or profound hearing loss.

www.scottish.parliament.ukparliamentarybusinessBills53284.aspx

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

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