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British Sign Language – A language of the UK

All government organisations are expected to consider the use of British Sign Language (BSL) in their communications.

Sign Language Week (18 to 24 March 2024) commemorates the first time British Sign Language (BSL) was recognised as a language by the UK government on 18 March 2003. BSL is used by 150,000 people.

Almost 20 years later, the BSL Act 2022 became law. The BSL Act requires government departments to report on their use of BSL to communicate new policy and changes to law. The second report is due in summer 2024.

For example, NHS England is running a BSL-signed and captioned advert for Help Us Help You – Cancer screening campaign on ITVX Signed, a BSL-specific channel, until the end of March 2024, the first public sector advertiser to do so.

NHS England BSL-signed advert to encourage cancer screening. Woman opening box.

NHS England

The Government Communication Service (GCS) has published guidance on how to plan for and produce British Sign Language (BSL) content (GCS members only). BSL involves a combination of hand shapes and movements, lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements. It has its own grammar and is structured in a completely different way from English.

As part of Sign Language Week, British Deaf Association is also offering free taster BSL classes on 18 and 21 March.

Sign Language Week – British Deaf Association

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