Dawn Butler, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, is marking Deaf Awareness Week which runs all week from 14-20 May. Deaf Awareness Week is an annual event primarily owned and promoted by the UK Council on Deafness (UKCoD) to provide Charities and interested organisations to join forces to raise awareness and challenges of Deafness and hearing loss.
1 in 6 people in the UK are affected by some form of hearing loss (around 10 million people), 3.7million of whom are of working age. 2 million people in the UK also have hearing aids
Deaf Awareness Week aims to:-
- raise awareness;
- improve access to education, health, social care and employment;
- ensure people have the accessible information they need;
- advocate and inform Government and the public at large about Deafness and hearing loss;
- provide Secretariat support to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness;
- raise awareness about the importance of embracing and recognising language and culture, preventing hearing loss; and
- improve the quality of services for people who are Deaf or have a hearing loss
Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, said:
I’m pleased to mark Deaf Awareness Week as it is so important that we come together and support people who are deaf and hard of hearing. We must raise awareness of the need to improve the quality of information and services and the need to break down existing barriers in communication, which we know can have a negative impact on those who are deaf or hard of hearing in society. That’s why I’m so pleased that my party has pledged to introduce a British Sign Language (BSL) Act through Parliament to address this issue and I have also supported the introduction of a BSL GCSE.
It is also important on this week that we spread the positive message of the incredible contribution people who are deaf and hard of hearing make to our society, and raise awareness for the inspirational people who have refused to let hearing loss hold them back. People who are deaf can achieve anything with the right support. Equality is equality, you cannot pick and choose, and I will continue the fight for equality for all. I hope everyone gets involved in marking this important week.
Dawn Butler has a level two qualification in BSL having learnt it many years ago so that she could communicate with a work colleague. Ms Butler is also an Ambassador for the Brent and Harrow United Deaf Club.
On 16th March 2017 Dawn became the first ever MP to ask a question in the House of Commons using BSL, calling on the government to introduce a BSL Act. Dawn Butler also recently pledged that the next Labour government will introduce legislation for a BSL Act, which would also give British Sign Language full legal status and give the deaf community the equality and recognition they deserve.
The Labour government recognised BSL as an official language in 2003 but it is still yet to be given full legal status. Although BSL is a recognised language in the UK, it is not available as a GCSE which can be taught in schools. A BSL Act would address this and other issues.