News23rd December 2014

Taking Their Place in History, Bridgend Council Win BDA Charter Award

The first Council in Wales to achieve the BDA award, Bridgend Council remain committed to supporting the deaf community

by Sarah Lawrence

Taking its place in Welsh history, Bridgend County Borough Council received recognition for all of the hard work undertaken to improve deaf access during a short ceremony at the County Council offices earlier this month. Commenting on the achievement, Mayor of Bridgend County Borough Council, Cllr Gary Thomas said, “I am so pleased with the work Bridgend Council have done in this area. It is wonderful, simply wonderful to see this happening despite being on a tight budget in the last few years. We wanted to make sure we are committed to deliver Deaf people’s right to access to our council.”

The purpose of the BDA’s Charter for British Sign Language is to promote better access to public services for Deaf communities and to help public agencies meet their legislative duties under the Equality Act 2010. Launched in Bristol in 2003, the Charter focuses on bilingual education, access, consultation and improving the teaching of BSL.

In presenting the award to the council, Dr Terry Riley OBE, Chair of the BDA praised the work of the council in achieving the certificate of achievement. He urged the local Deaf community to work with the Council to continue this crucial work.

Speaking to Bev Davies, the Customer Service’s Manager at the Council during the celebratory event, she told me, “Despite all the financial and other pressures we face as a Customer Services team within a local authority, I am delighted that Bridgend has achieved such a positive step forward by becoming the first local authority in Wales to attain the BDA Charter. It demonstrates our continuing commitment to working with the Deaf community in Bridgend to improve access to our services.”

Recognising the positive impact of the changes that have already been implemented, a Bridgend resident and a member of Bridgend Deaf Club said that lots of things had changed within Bridgend. Making services accessible had made all the difference for Deaf BSL users. In fact, the benefits were such that they hoped to see more and more public services follow suit. 

The Charter aims to help local and public authorities to:

  • Remove direct and indirect discrimination against Deaf people;
  • Empower local Deaf communities;
  • Resolve conflicts between service providers and Deaf people;
  • Increase awareness of Deaf issues and BSL issues; and
  • Provide better educational options for Deaf children.

During his presentation, Dr Terry Riley OBE, said, “This doesn’t mean the work is done. Today is the start of making changes and a wide range of Deaf people need to help by working in partnership with BCBC to make it better and better in the years to come.”

‚ÄčTreated to some signed Christmas carols by some local school children during the event, I learned that there were 18 children, 3 of whom were Deaf. With hearing and deaf children coming together to give a signed performance I noticed that Terry was in tears as he watched them. “This is exactly what I have been waiting my lifetime to see”, he said. “This is a proper interaction. I’ve been a member of the BDA for over 50 years and for the last 60 years I’ve been waiting to see this. This is so emotional and I never thought I would see it in my lifetime”.

Putting smiles on everyone’s face, the signed carols are testament themselves to the efforts being made to raise awareness of deafness and of the linguistics used by some people within the deaf community. Rounding off a lovely positive event, organisers, officials and guests, left the event safe in the knowledge that Bridgend Council have taken their first important step in supporting the deaf community.

Commenting at the end of the event, Michelle Fowler-Powe, the BDA's Community Advocacy Officer and event organiser reflected on her work with council. "The BDA were very pleased to award BCBC a certificate of achievement for thier efforts in incorporating the BDA BSL Charter into their services. This is the first achievement of its kind and the BDA look forward to working the BCBC in the future."

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / News

23rd December 2014