Today, the Government has published The British Sign Language (BSL) report 2022. The report shows how different Government departments have been using BSL in their communications between 28 June 2022 and 30 April 2023.
Why is this important?
RNID believes it is clear from the report that the Government has been complacent in producing resources for the Deaf community in BSL and that more needs to be done to ensure equal access to Government communications.
Government communications are an important method through which people can find out more about what support is available to them, as well as a tool to raise awareness of opportunities to feed into policy developments through call to evidence.
Lack of accessible information can lead to people feeling anxious, angry and in some cases at risk of believing fake news, as official sources are not accessible for them.
What does the report show?
11 departments reported no communications were produced in BSL in the time frame. Additionally, only 6 reported using BSL in press conferences, social media or Government websites to publicise activities or policies.
Particularly worrying, is the lack of resources produced by The Treasury during a cost-of-living crisis. BSL users were not informed on the policy changes which were being made and the financial support packages being created.
Additionally, it is disappointing to see that the Department for Health and Social Care only had one consultation document translated into BSL.
Government Next Steps
RNID welcomes the next steps set out in the report to improve the way Government departments engage with the Deaf community, including the intent to publish a BSL report every year for the next 5 years to ensure that departments are held to account on this issue.
Additionally, we hope that the 5-year improvement plans each department are required to produce will be ambitious, and developed in collaboration with BSL users to ensure that their needs are prioritised.
We hope that this report and the poor performance it demonstrates will instigate a change in approach within government departments to become more deaf aware.
What we’ll do next
RNID will follow up with the Government to ensure that they are keeping their commitment to improve the provision of BSL and will not remain quiet if they fail to deliver on their promises.
Additionally, RNID is calling for the office of the Prime Minister to voluntarily report their use of BSL and produce a 5-year plan alongside Government departments. Many important policies are announced directly by Number 10, such as the announcements during the Covid Briefings, and it is wholly unfair that BSL users cannot access them.