Tuesday, 4 June 2019

The BSL Dream

Photograph by Ian Georgeson Pic: Kirsty McEwen try's out some sign language.   Secondary school pupils from schools across Edinburgh the Lothians, Borders and Fife will take part in a British Sign Language (BSL) workshop at Heriot-Watt University's Brightest Watts summer week.  A highly interactive session pupil's will experience what it's like to communicate without using spoken words, and to focus on visual modes of communication. They will have the opportunity to learn and practice some BSL.   When?                 Tuesday 16 July, 10.30am to 12.30pm   Where?                Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Campus, BEC Lecture Theatre, Esmee Fairbairn Building   Who?                    19 pupils due to go on to fifth year after the summer will join this workshop being led by Gary Quinn, BSL Teaching Fellow, Heriot-Watt University
ATR made these points to the deaf community 15 YEARS ago, that to initiate any BSL act you had to have the infrastructure and demand proven to enable it.  Instead, BSL lobbies rambled endlessly on about culture and sign and, relied on Untrained help and families instead.  

When asked to properly explain WHERE they get their statistics and demand from? they revert to rights/preferences not a need or demand basis.  E.G. There are NOT 87,000 deaf who prefer BSL to other avenues of communication in Scotland, and in this case, the statistic certainly does NOT relate to Scotland, it is an alleged but unproven UK inclusive stat.  In fact, based on clinical identification of people with hearing loss who are deaf, clinicians do not ask what modes they use.   In esence, the BSL lobby then said all those deaf signed in or 'preferred' BSL, because they know establishing it true or false isn't possible.  It is unproven because the question is blocked from inclusion on 'privacy' and legal (Data Protection Act), grounds.

Census returns in the UK found only 15,000 in England e.g. who 'knew about sign language.'  Wales has less than 1500, where the additional numbers emerge from is not stated other than it must be Scotland and Northern Ireland who have all these BSL deaf, however, their own deaf stats don't appear to justify or identify the communication differences.  Hard of Hearing, deaf, deafened etc are NOT BSL deaf.  Deaf lobbies posted this as wrong because the census question about sign use wasn't 'Asked the right way..' Yet, the British deaf lobbies had the question put in themselves.  Knowing some BSL and daily usage and demand, are entirely different questions and weren't asked.  There is only one statistic that is true, and that is current take-up of present resources which would identify demand.

However the fly in the proverbial are the interpreters themselves, if Scotland is anything like the rest of the UK, most are freelance and please themselves who they support and where they work, there is no unified or reliable BSL support UK system in that respect.  Respecting terps aren't a charity and are highly trained, they require regular work and the wage to reflect that.  They cannot earn a living outside a sizeable town or city without a significant deaf community.

We aren't aware of how BSL Scottish terps are 'tested' to gain their levels we do know learners pay a high financial price to take such exams and getting issues with regional judges that deter them.  Also that Interpreters are against receiving a standard wage and organising themselves so resources are more effective.  40% were reported as refusing to work for W.I.T.S. because the system wanted that as a standard and norm, the system was frustrated having to rely on freelance help and enduring endless delays.  There was a collapse in wales of BSL support when the DWP decided to introduce PIP e.g.  It wasn't possible to support the deaf there, and terps were refusing to enable the DWP assessments because 'bread and butter' work would suffer, they didn't want to be seen by their clients helping the DWP either.  The DWP cuts to the deaf were blamed then squarely on their support, as the DWP told deaf we have asked BSL terps 2 or 3 times to support you and they aren't turning up.

Interpreter support, like educational support demands trained people, we aren't seeing DEMAND for that because deaf are still by-passing trained help for family support e.g. still taking up 64% of all deaf support for free. Integrating deaf children into the mainstream pretty much removed what trained deaf teachers and special schools there were.   It starts off as all BSL lobbies do, using 'preference' as a need demand, instead of identifying what works and basic NEED.  Worse it distorts Stats to gain higher figures to create what is still not a clearly identified need or area.  Until we get a proper survey of ALL deaf we will never know, but this seems to suit BSL lobbyists who can 'think of a number, double/treble it..' then challenge you to prove it wrong, rather than them having to prove it right.  A lot of people are deaf a lot never sign either.  Maybe demanding the return of specialised social services for the deaf is an option, albeit deaf got rid of them years ago on the grounds they patronised deaf people.  That specialisation also created state dependencies on the deaf.

This appears the 2nd time this week reality has been omitted in BSL campaigns in Scotland. we have a number of rights/access laws but none currently function because neither the staff or the demand is identified properly.  Of course 'Use it or lose it..' is still the bottom line.  Deaf are notorious for asking for things then not using them.  Just as systems are saying use it or else because there is no money to waste.

What Scots Said:

British Sign Language (BSL) is the preferred language for more than 87,000 deaf people in the UK, according to the British Deaf ­Association, and to comply with new ­legislation introduced under the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, ­Scotland must now rise to the ­challenge of promoting its use and understanding. 

The Scottish Government has ­boldly set out 70 actions in its BSL National Plan, designed to help ­Scotland become the best place for BSL users to live, work and ­visit. The National Plan is a welcome ­document, recognising the need for interpreters to attain skills in ­specialist fields of work such as healthcare and the judiciary system where BSL users frequently face inequalities, and to be employed effectively across the country. However, the reality of the ­interpreting landscape in Scotland is that there are limited human resources available for the actions on the National Plan to be achieved. Joined up thinking and decision-making at a strategic level is going to be essential.


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