On 3 November 2022 Deaf EXperience (DEX) was invited by the Foundation for Endangered Languages to present at their Conference held in the University of Albuquerque in New Mexico, USA. The Conference theme was Community Ownership of language education for endangered language revitalization. DEX’s research study is titled: “Deaf community ownership of endangered sign language revitalisation”.
It builds on our published work (2016) where we found BSL is severely endangered because of the low numbers of deaf children learning to sign which will affect the deaf community and our language.
Our study reviews DEX’s language activism from 2014 when the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness requested leadership from DEX to draft a BSL Bill with other deaf organisations. DEX called on the working group to use the BSL Act to protect BSL, as well as making BSL a legally recognised language of the UK. Whilst BSL is now a language of the UK, there is no provision in the BSL Act 2022 for its protection.
DEX’s study looks at the various reasons for this happening, looking at other research into endangered spoken languages’ communities for examples on how to move forward. Spoken language researchers and activists at the conference were supportive and interested in the similarities between sign and spoken language communities’ activism. Research shows that planned cooperation is an urgent requirement to ensure the wellbeing and safeguarding of future generations of deaf children and for the survival of the deaf community and its language.