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My reasons for learning BSL


Phil
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I have three main reasons for why I've decided to learn BSL and why I'm doing it now.

Firstly, it's a language I've occasionally thought about trying to learn over the years. I always feel somewhat feeble for only speaking English (as well as tiny smattering of French half remembered from GCSE getting on 30 years ago), and have wanted to learn at least one other language for many years. 

Secondly, as I mentioned in my introduction post, I volunteer at a foodbank and have done so for nearly 8 years. We've had a few Deaf people come to us for help in that time, and we've really struggled to communicate. At best, that's awkward and embarrassing for the Deaf person, frustrating for us, and disappointing that we can't provide the same level of service to all our clientele. At worst, someone could be seriously ill or die due to an allergy not being properly communicated. So, I figure having someone who can sign, at least at a very basic level, would be a great benefit to the foodbank and any Deaf clients.

Thirdly, I think it's an absolute bloody disgrace that throughout the pandemic the British Government has not bothered to provide sign language interpreters for the extremely important briefings that have been given. The Scottish and Welsh Governments manage to have signers, numerous countries around the world have had signers. You get a tornado in East Emptyville in Kentucky or wherever and the chances are the local government there will have an American Sign Language interpreter to hand. And yet the British Government (who've just spent £2.6 million on a new press briefing room at No 10) can't be bothered to allow the tens of thousands of British citizens who have BSL as their first language to properly access the briefings in the way we hearing folks are able to. That has been really, really annoying me for the last year, so to be quite honest, it's what prompted me to finally get round to committing to learning a new language and that language being BSL. It's my form of protest against the government excluding the Deaf community from such critical information.

Finally, I also like the idea of being able to provide random assistance to any stranger who might be struggling. Whether it's someone in a shop who can't understand what the shop assistant is saying to them because they're wearing a mask (not a criticism of wearing masks!), or someone dealing with the police who don't realise they can't hear and think they're drugged or being awkward (a well known problem for people with hearing problems).

I suppose ultimately it's an acknowledgement of the social model of disability and my attempt at making a very, very small contribution to addressing that. For those unfamiliar with the term, in very basic terms, the social model of disability holds that a person is disabled more by the way the world is structured (everything from the way cities are built to societal attitudes) rather than by any medical conditions or differences they have. 

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