UK Politics

Labour's sign language video 'a turn-off'

Image copyright Labour Party
Image caption Some sign language users were unsatisfied with being unable to read the signer's facial expressions in the video

A British Sign Language (BSL) video shared by the Labour Party to mark Sign Language Week has been criticised by sign language users.

The video, published across social media at the weekend, pledged to recognise BSL if Labour came to power.

The footage drew criticism for not showing the signer's whole face, leaving many deaf people and sign language experts confused.

Labour said it appreciated the response and would "improve" its online content.

For sign language users, facial expression is as important as sign language itself because it helps to convey various emotions, tones and different contexts.

Harper Lily commented on the party's Facebook page: "Where is the face? BSL is not just language of the hands - the shoulders, eyes, eyebrows and facial expressions (amongst other things) are all very important parts of the language.

"It's a nice idea but in future, it would be better for a deaf person to be used and for the whole face to be seen."

Marnie Davis Wood said she did not want to berate the signer for her effort but wrote that "the producer of the video needs to do better."

The Young Labour Women group tweeted to defend the signer saying "the woman in the video has been using BSL since childhood as both of her parents are deaf."

Despite this many questioned the party's judgement in using a non-deaf or unqualified sign language user to sign a video.

Lauren Harris said on BSL Recognition Day that "the official message should be in fluent BSL by a native signer. You wouldn't ask someone with GCSE French to translate a speech into French."

Others called on the party to simply "try again".

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A Labour spokesperson said: "The Labour Party is proud to celebrate British Sign Language Recognition Day. We take on board feedback about our social media content, which we always seek to improve, and we will continue to work with the deaf community on content in BSL.

"Fifteen years ago BSL was officially recognised as a language, under Labour. The next Labour government will go further, with a BSL Act in Parliament to give it full legal status."

Labour and Liberal Democrats are the only two parties in Westminster to post videos to mark British Sign Language Recognition Day.

At the time of writing, the Conservative party have not posted anything to mark the occasion.

The British Sign Language Recognition Day was held on 18 March to celebrate the landmark date when the UK government in 2003 formally recognised British Sign Language as a language in its own right.

In 2015, the Scottish Parliament passed the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill which require Scottish ministers to develop a national plan and to promote the language.

By Paul Harrison, UGC and Social News

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