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Govt publishes Bill recognising British Sign Language as official language

The Gibraltar Government has published a Bill that seeks to recognise British Sign Language as a language of Gibraltar.

The purpose of the Bill is to facilitate the provision of sign language throughout the public sector.

Compliance with the new law will be monitored by the Minister for Equality, Samantha Sacramento, and all Government departments, agencies, authorities and other statutory bodies who will be required to report to the minister.

The Ministry for the Equality is already working on preparing guidance and will be working with all relevant departments to ensure that everyone understands they are required to give effect to this legislation.

The guidance will include advice on how to meet the legislative requirements before the come into effect so that everyone is properly prepared.

The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said: "I am very grateful to Samantha Sacramento for her continued commitment to equality and her deep understanding that issues of equality are wider than most appreciate.”

“In this regard, the recent awareness day by GHITA was a helpful and important reminder to the whole of Gibraltar of the issues faced by our deaf and hard of hearing community.”

“It proved an important catalyst for further action which we are very proud to now progress.”

“I am sure the whole community will embrace these changes positively."
Ms Sacramento added: "Our Government has a track record of supporting the deaf and hard of hearing in Gibraltar and we were the first to introduce the use of British Sign Language at events.”

“We have also provided BSL through digital technology for many years.”

“Through this proposed new piece of legislation this will now be compulsory throughout the public sector and will make Gibraltar more inclusive for BSL users.”

“I am grateful for the work undertaken by GHITA in this regard and I must also credit and thank Mr Joe Brugada who has a longstanding relationship with the Ministry of Equality and has always advised us and greatly assisted us."

The announcement was welcomed by the Gibraltar Disability Society, which congratulated the Gibraltar Hearing Issues and Tinnitus Association on its hard work in getting recognition for British Sign Language in Gibraltar.

It also praised the Gibraltar Government for taking the first steps towards the introduction of the British Sign Language Act 2022.

“The Disability Society is proud to have collaborated with the GHITA back in 2011 to bring the first British Sign Languages courses to Gibraltar,” the society said.

“In 2020, during the height of Covid, we also jointly issued a press statement calling for Government to provide sign language interpreters or subtitles for press conferences or other important announcements.”

“After all they have a responsibility to inform and support all members of the community without discrimination.”

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