Antrim teen launches campaign for school sign language lessons

Alanis Millar who has helped launch a nationwide campaign for British Sign Language (BSL) to be taught in schools.
Alanis Millar who has helped launch a nationwide campaign for British Sign Language (BSL) to be taught in schools.

A 14-year-old deaf girl from Antrim has just launched a nationwide campaign for British Sign Language to be taught in schools.

A survey of more than 2,000 deaf and hearing young people across the United Kingdom, which Alanis Millar helped to design, found 97% think BSL should be taught in schools and 92% want it to be offered as a GCSE.

The Youth Advisory Board is a group of 16 deaf young people from across the United Kingdom who inform the work of the National Deaf Children’s Society and help campaign for change.

It was as part of her role as a board member that Alanis, from Antrim, created the survey.

When Alanis joined the board in 2015 she and the other 15 members agreed lack of access to BSL was a key concern.

The survey findings showed it was not just a deaf issue.

Respondents with no hearing impairment actually showed more interest in learning BSL than deaf respondents .

Some 94% of hearing respondents said they wanted to learn more BSL, compared to 85% of deaf respondents.

Alanis, who has taught sign language to other children at Jordanstown School, said: “BSL is useful if you want to learn a different language because it is easy to remember, because, for example, I learn French at school but sometimes you find it very hard to remember how to say it.

“There should be a BSL class so we can learn more.”

Susan Daniels, Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “Everyone in the United Kingdom, deaf or hearing, should have the opportunity to learn BSL.

“This survey shows children and young people really want to learn to sign, so we are urging the government to respond to this demand.”

Alanis travelled to London to officially launch her Right to Sign campaign with the National Deaf Children’s Society and mark the start of Deaf Awareness Week, which ran this year from May 15-21.

She is asking anyone who agrees that schools should offer sign language lessons to contact their MLA and ask them to support the campaign.

To support Alanis and the Right to Sign campaign, go to buzz.org.uk/righttosign.

*British Sign Language (BSL) is a visual-gestural language, with its own grammar and principles, completely different from English.

It is the first or preferred language of around 70,000 Deaf people in the United Kingdom.