What is BSL?
British Sign Language (BSL) is the first or preferred language of an estimated 70,000 Deaf people in the UK. BSL is a visual, spatial language that uses key features such as movement of the hands, body, face and head. It has its own grammar and principles, which are completely different from the grammatical structure of English.
Although BSL is used throughout Britain, there are marked differences between the signs used in different regions. Just as different dialects and accents in spoken English can identify the speaker's 'home town', so can the BSL user's choice of sign.
Over the years English has adopted, changed and dropped words as they have come into and fallen out of fashion. The same has happened with BSL. As technology, science and media have developed, BSL has developed with it.
Fingerspelling can be used to spell out the individual letters of the alphabet. It is usually reserved for names of people and places, although initials can represent meaning as well e.g. 'S' 'S' can represent social services.
In March 2003 BSL was recognised by the Government as a language in its own right however BSL does not have any legal status within England.
On the 17th September 2015 the British Sign Language (BSL) (Scotland) Bill of the Scottish Parliament was passed. This means the Scottish Government and relevant public authorities will be required to develop a BSL national plan setting out how they will improve access to information in British Sign Language (BSL).