March the 13th marks the beginning of British Sign Language Week. The tradition is a new one, only having begun back in 2003 – it will coincide with events, schemes and celebrity statements all to promote teaching and understanding of sign language and the needs of deaf people in the UK.
Even before the week began, Labour MP, Rosie Cooper has been working vigorously to pass the British Sign Language Bill in Parliament that will recognise sign as an official language and promote a list of government guidelines in how to help those hard of hearing to better accommodate themselves within jobs.
But what has this weekly event brought and how has it benefited deaf people?
In the UK, there are more practitioners of the current language than there are deaf people, and not everyone who goes on a course does so with the intention of becoming a full-time practitioner.
“I basically did the level 1 course back in 2019 because I just wanted to learn a new skill.” says Lucy Williams. A student at the University of Swansea at the time, “Being a future teacher, I just thought that it would open up my opportunities to create a more inclusive environment for more students.”
But despite the occasion, and contrary to some people’s expectations, there are hard of hearing individuals who do not use sign language in their day-to-day lives.
“Truth be told, I don’t use sign language.” Explained Laura Power, a 24-year-old singer and songwriter from the Rhondda Valleys who experienced a loss of hearing when she was only 19.
Despite the circumstances, Laura has persevered and continued her passion for music, preforming on stage with the encouragement of her friends and family.
“I’ve learned my condition doesn’t define who I am as a person just because my ears don’t work as they should does not make me different from anyone else. It just makes me unique and has not stopped me from achieving so many things.”
With a career and young family, Laura says that it is a lack of time that she has not learned sign language. “I’d love to learn sign language and it isn’t that I haven’t wanted to, but having a toddler is incredibly time consuming.” she laughed.
British Sign Language Week will last from today all the way to Sunday.