The Government recognise that British Sign Language (BSL) is a language in its own right regularly used by a significant number of people. For an estimated 70,000 deaf people it is their preferred language for participation in everyday life. BSL is a visual-gestural language with its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax.The Government understand that people who use BSL want their language to be protected and promoted in the same way some minority languages are by the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The Council is considering how that might be achieved for indigenous sign languages. The Government will give careful consideration to any proposals which the Council might make.The Government have already taken action to improve access to BSL, for example by identifying situations where it might be reasonable for employers and service providers to engage the services of a BSL/ English interpreter.The Government will be funding a discrete programme of initiatives to support this statement.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
(Mr. Andrew Smith)