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Deaf community celebrates passing of British Sign Language Bill

Scotland

Monday 28 September
Deaf community celebrates passing of British Sign Language Bill

- September 28 at 08:36

Dumfries schoolgirl Sarah-Jane Robinson was terrified when she lost her hearing at the age of 10, but 11 years on she now sees it as a blessing which has led to her career as an interpreter for Deaf Action.

And she’s delighted other hard of hearing people will have the support they need after a British Sign Language Bill was passed in the Scottish Parliament last week.

Sarah-Jane, who now lives in Edinburgh, said, “It’s going to make a huge difference in the lives of deaf people. There were two interpreters from our work translating at the parliament on Thursday. It was so exciting to see the bill being passed. We’re all over the moon.”

The new bill protects BSL as a first language in its own right, putting it on an equal footing with Gaelic in Scotland.

Sarah-Jane, 21, added, “A huge part of the bill is to start teaching about deaf culture at school and nursery age and build on that. They’re the next generation.”

She lost the hearing in her left ear from an autoimmune disease and now wears a hearing aid. Sarah-Jane said, “I was terrified. It was a very scary time. Looking back it was a blessing.”

She developed a keen interest in lip reading and began learning sign language at 16. She was inspired to follow the training and last year graduated from university with a BA (Hons) British Sign Language and Deaf Studies.

Sarah-Jane added, “When I began to learn sign language it was like being home, it just felt so natural. It’s such a beautiful language. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it hadn’t happened. I’m deaf and I’m hearing. I love what I do and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

A spokeswoman for the British Deaf Association said, “Nursing homes and carers will be legally required to communicate using BSL to older Deaf people.

“And across all areas of leisure and the Arts, there will now be a legal requirement in Scotland to provide information in British Sign Language making concerts, theatre etc. more inviting and welcoming of Deaf BSL users.

“This will not only benefit the deaf and hard of hearing people in Dumfries and Galloway but also the whole Deaf population in Scotland.”

NHS Dumfries and Galloway called it a “really positive move”. A spokeswoman said, “In addition the bill supports hearing carers of deaf people such as a spouse, partner or child who often has to interpret on behalf of the deaf person.


Article source: Sandy Kilpatrick, Daily Record

Photo caption: Sarah-Jane Robinson graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a BA (Hons) British Sign Language and Deaf Studies course.

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