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Sign Language Week 2024 - What's going on out there?

Updated: Mar 26

Happy Sign Language Week (SLW) 2024!


SLW is a celebration run on an annual basis by the British Deaf Association (BDA) to commemorate the first time British Sign Language (BSL) was acknowledged as a language in its own right by the UK Parliament on 18 March 2003.


This year’s Sign Language Week runs from 18 – 24 March 2024. The theme of this year’s campaign will be ‘Promoting BSL and ISL as indigenous languages of the UK’.


The campaign aims to celebrate and educate about BSL and ISL, to encourage more people to start learning it and preserve BSL and ISL for future generations.


It is the BDA’s mission to protect, preserve, promote, and encourage more people across the UK to learn about this beautiful, unique, and visual language.


Here at Deaf Umbrella we will be happy to take part of Sign Language Week as each year, and we will be helping raise awareness about BSL and Deaf culture.


Let's have a look what's out there during this week:

SCHOOLS LEARN TO SIGN - 20th March


Signature in partnership with the BDA will be hosting the UK’s largest British Sign Language (BSL) lesson online with primary schools across the UK. The lesson will be available from 10am on Wednesday 20th March 2024. 


The lesson will give children the opportunity to learn BSL from a Deaf teacher, as well as wider benefits for children such as improved communication skills and confidence, new ways for them to express emotions, and an appreciation of the diverse cultures of the UK.  


If you are a primary school and would like to sign up to take part in the lesson, sign up now!






FREE BSL LESSONS FOR COMPANIES


Companies are invited to participate in SLW2024 on both Monday 18th March and Thursday 21st March to accommodate various schedules.⁠


This is a unique chance to expand your team's communication skills and inclusivity. This initiative is completely free for participating companies and the lessons are designed to cater to all levels.⁠


WHY PARTICIPATE?⁠


✅Enhance Communication: Learn the basics of BSL from a Deaf teacher and take a step towards creating a more inclusive and accessible workplace.⁠


✅Team Building: Engage your team in a valuable learning experience that fosters empathy and collaboration.⁠


✅Cultural Awareness: Gain insights into the rich and diverse Deaf culture and community.⁠









To mark SLW2024, the BDA will be launching a groundbreaking campaign centered on the crucial need for early access to BSL/ISL for deaf children. Recognising the formative years from birth to five as pivotal for language acquisition, cognitive development, and lifelong wellbeing.


90% percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, with the majority having little understanding of Deaf Culture. Moreover, they often face significant barriers to learning how to communicate with their child during these crucial early years due to the high costs involved.


This situation creates a barrier to communication within their own homes.


The BDA's position is that deaf children should have access to both English and BSL/ISL. Contrary to misconceptions, using sign language as the first language does not negatively impact a deaf child's language development. In fact, it has the opposite effect, enhancing verbal skills and contributing to fully developed cognitive abilities.



The “BSL In Our Hands” campaign focuses on 10 key principles:


  • Linguistic and educational rights: Deaf children learning British Sign Language (BSL) or Irish Sign Language (ISL) in Northern Ireland should be celebrated for embracing a rich and dynamic language that is an integral part of their cultural identities.

  • Language acquisition: Access to language in the first five years of life is essential for a child’s cognitive development and well-being.

  • Language rights: It is imperative that deaf children’s linguistic and educational rights be respected and upheld, including their right to acquire both BSL or ISL alongside English.

  • Challenging traditional binary choices: Traditional advice forcing parents to choose between sign language and spoken language is outdated and detrimental to the child’s linguistic and cognitive development. Sign language is essential for communication in the crucial early years of deaf children’s lives.

  • Early BSL provision: Early access to sign language is not a privilege; it’s a necessity. The lack of national provision is a gap we are committed to close.

  • Expertise and recognition: Deaf people are the experts in their own lives. Recognising this expertise is central to our service provision.

  • Bilingual-bimodal future: Our mission is to ensure deaf children grow up with fluency in both BSL or ISL and English, fostering a strong, proud, Deaf identity.

  • Championing Deaf Lives: Deaf lives are as full, rich, and rewarding as anyone else’s. We want to empower deaf children to become confident members of a thriving Deaf community.

  • Government collaboration: Collaboration with the Government is essential to achieve change. Policies related to sign languages should be shaped in collaboration with Deaf people, led by the BDA as the organisation representing the BSL / ISL community in the UK.

  • Addressing educational disparities: Low expectations of deaf children’s potential persist in our educational system. It’s time to address the widening gap in achievement. Deaf children deserve equitable education.”


How can you help?

Tell your MP to support our campaign to give every deaf child and their families free access to British Sign Language.





BSL CONFERENCE 2024 - 26th April


On 26th April, the British Deaf Association will host a BSL Conference in Manchester, at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, 303 Deansgate, M3 4LQ.

The 2024 conference, titled "Early Years: The Benefits of Introducing Sign Language to Deaf Children", addresses the profound impact of early exposure to sign language on cognitive development and communication skills. By fostering inclusivity, enhancing literacy, promoting positive identity, and supporting educational success, the conference aims to highlight the importance of early sign language intervention for the mental health and overall well-being of deaf children.

To know more about the BSL Conference, speakers, and buy tickets, please click here: https://bda.org.uk/bsl-conference-2024/






BSL FINGERSPELLING CARD


Did you know that fingerspelling positively correlates with stronger reading skills? Deaf and hard of hearing children who are good fingerspellers are good readers, and vice versa⁠!⁠⁠


The fingerspelling alphabet is used in sign language to spell out names of people and places for which there is not a sign. Fingerspelling can also be used to spell words for signs that the signer does not know the sign for, or to clarify a sign that is not known by the person reading the signer. ⁠


⁠British Sign Language (BSL) uses a two-handed alphabet however some other sign languages, such as American Sign Language (ASL), or Spanish (LSE), use a one-handed alphabet.⁠


BDA made a BSL fingerspelling card to help get you communicating in BSL right away! Click the image below to download a copy.


British Sign Language BSL Fingerspelling Alphabet


EXPAND AND GO DEEPER INTO BSL


If you want to learn useful and basic BSL vocabulary, such as how to introduce yourself, open questions, days of the week, or the emotions, below you will find some videos to expand your signing knowledge and help the inclusion for Deaf community.










Know more about Sign Language Week 2024 here: https://signlanguageweek.org.uk/



 


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