From education to employment

More than NINE out of 10 Brits don’t know more than two words of British Sign Language

There are 11 million people with hearing loss in the UK*, yet new research has revealed that a staggering 94% of Brits admit that they do not know more than two words of British Sign Language (BSL).

The research, conducted by adult-education college, City Lit, reveals that over a quarter of Brits (27%) feel embarrassed that they can’t communicate with people with hearing loss, with 59% calling for sign language to be made part of the National Curriculum.

It is estimated that there are at least 24,000 people* across the UK who use BSL as their primary language. Yet some 61% of Brits feel that those who are deaf or suffering with hearing loss are marginalised from society because not enough people know how to communicate with them.

The research suggests that one common area of day-to-day life where people with hearing loss might experience marginalisation is in the workplace, with only one in five saying their employer has measures in place to help people communicate with deaf colleagues. Research by the NHS** has shown that almost three quarters of deaf people (74%) felt that their employment opportunities were limited because of their hearing loss, and over two thirds (68%) have felt isolated at work.

While 50% of people admit they don’t know any sign language, 60% would like to learn to communicate better with people with hearing loss.

Rachael Davies, a British Sign Language interpreter, has grown up with family members who are deaf and said: “I have witnessed the communication barriers deaf people have to face everyday. In some instances, family members have had to write on a piece of paper to be able to communicate, but English isn’t a deaf person’s first language – sign language is.

“For a deaf person to not be able to communicate with someone because they don’t know any sign language can be very isolating, sign language is a beautiful language and it would be amazing to see it being taught in schools so it’s available to the wider community.”

To test the nation’s sign language knowledge, City Lit created an online quiz designed to test how much sign language we actually know. For those who would like to learn more, City Lit have some British Sign Language courses for beginners to intermediates.

Commenting on the findings, Chris Jones, Director of Sales and Marketing at City Lit, said: “With so many people suffering from hearing loss and it being such an isolating condition, it’s all the more important for more people to know some sign language to be able to communicate better with those who are hard of hearing

“When we go on holiday to a foreign country, we usually learn at least a few words and phrases to help us communicate with locals, and it’s just as important to be able to communicate with someone with hearing loss using sign language. Many people find it very rewarding.”

To test your sign language knowledge, please visit:

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