Department for Work and Pensions

British Sign Language

The first language of 50,000 members of your audience


Providing sign language alternatives will make your communications more accessible to people who use British Sign Language to communicate.

British Sign Language

British Sign Language (BSL) is a gestural language used in the UK's deaf community. It is not  related to English or any other spoken languages.

BSL was officially recognised by the Government as being a full, independent language in March 2003. This recognition raised the status of BSL and led to money being invested in training more deaf BSL tutors and BSL interpreters.

Audience sectors

Many people who are born deaf, or become deaf in early life, use sign language to communicate. The number of deaf signers who use BSL as their first language is estimated at 50,000 (source: Royal National Institute for Deaf People 2009).

Many hearing people also use BSL because they have family members, friends or colleagues who are deaf. Figures from the British Deaf Association suggest that on any day up to 250,000 people use BSL.

BSL is used across the UK, although there are considerable differences in regional dialects. The BSL used in Belfast, for example, is very different from that used in the Channel Islands.


Page last reviewed: 04 November 2010

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