British Sign Language (BSL) is the first or preferred language of about 87,000 Deaf people in the United Kingdom. It is a language of space and movement, using the hands, body, face and head. Thousands of hearing people use BSL too. In fact, there are more people (Deaf and hearing) who use BSL, than speak Welsh or Gaelic!
Contrary to popular belief, sign language is not international. Wherever Deaf communities exist, different sign languages develop. As with spoken languages, these vary from country to country. They are not based upon the spoken language in the country of origin.
BSL belongs to Deaf people. It is not a means of communication devised by hearing people. BSL has evolved among the UK’s Deaf community over hundreds of years. It is a natural language, and just as accessible to Deaf people, as English is to hearing people.
Research has proven that Deaf children exposed to sign language will develop linguistically at the same rate and level as their hearing peers. Early access to language is the gateway to lifelong learning.