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March 20, 2003

Signing is recognised as a language

From: Edinfo-Centre, UK - Mar 20, 2003

British sign language has been given legal status by the Government as a language in its own right.

This ended a 20 year battle by charities that have campaigned for official recognition of British sign language.

Currently 70,000 people in Britain use sign language as their main form of communication, making it second to Welsh as a minority language.

Education authorities are now required to provide better opportunities for deaf children to learn communication skills.

Andrew Smith, the work and pensions secretary, promised an extra £1m for training teachers and interpreters in the language.

John Low, the chief executive of the Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, said it would help the spread of a video-telephone interpretation service.

Tom Fenton, the chief executive of the Royal Association for Deaf People, said recognition was "the most important event in the history of Britain's second largest indigenous language".

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