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A defined policy on sign language here surely deserves ministerial and cross-party support

Both British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) are indigenous languages used by deaf people in Northern Ireland.

The local deaf community have been campaigning for years for BSL/ISL legislation, similar to what has been achieved in Scotland - a BSL Act (2014).

In 2001, the deaf community in Northern Ireland welcomed the stated objective in the new Programme for Government to develop a policy on sign language.

It was noted at the time that significant funding had been provided for the promotion and development of both Irish language and Ulster-Scots, but not for either language of need - BSL and ISL.

A Framework for Sign Language has been produced by the Department for Communities, which includes the need for BSL and ISL legislation. A consultation exercise was carried out at the end of 2016 and a response is awaited from the minister.

Surely, legislation for BSL and ISL can gain the minister's and cross-party support? There is a duty to preserve and promote them both, rather than marginalise them.


(authors of British and Irish Sign Languages: The Long Road to Recognition)

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