Deaf campaigners have hailed new legislation as an “historic landmark” that will give important new rights to users of British Sign Language (BSL) in Scotland.
The BSL (Scotland) bill passed its third stage in the Scottish parliament today (Thursday), with a unanimous vote, and now just needs royal assent before it becomes law.
The bill, introduced last October by Labour MSP Mark Griffin, aims to promote BSL and improve services available for Deaf people in Scotland.
Once it becomes law, it will force the Scottish government and some public bodies to develop action plans on improving access to information in BSL.
The user-led British Deaf Association (BDA) said the bill would improve Deaf people’s quality of life in relation to health, employment, leisure and the arts, and in older people’s services.
BDA said that more Deaf people would be able to access work as BSL and the use of interpreters became “more visible” and more employers learned about support programmes.
Avril Hepner, BDA’s community development manager (Scotland), said it was a “momentous day for the Scottish Deaf community”.
She said: “I am proud, as a Scottish person, to see my country leading the way in making the first ever BSL act in the UK.
“We look forward to working with the Scottish government to implement this and hope the rest of the UK follows suit.”
She added: “The BSL (Scotland) Bill is very important to BDA because we have been involved with the process from the start when BDA Scotland was invited to respond to the education and culture committee panel in Scottish parliament in support of the bill.
“The BDA is led by Deaf BSL-users and this is an excellent way for BSL to make history.
“BSL-users in Scotland from the cradle to the grave will be greatly affected by the BSL (Scotland) bill.
“This recognition of their first and preferred language will improve their access, inclusion and sense of belonging in Scotland.”