Dawn Butler Commons question 'great moment' for sign language

Labour MP Dawn Butler has been praised by the British Deaf Association after using sign language to ask a question in the House of Commons.

At the moment, British Sign Language (BSL) is a minority language.

If it was awarded legal status, it would be treated the same as Welsh - which means it would be promoted and protected.

Siobhan Charnay, 25, was born deaf and says using a language hardly anyone else understands can feel isolating.

"Sometimes it can become so frustrating that you give up and walk away," she tells Newsbeat.

"For the majority of the deaf community every day is a struggle with communication.

"There's no link with people and no interaction when you're speaking a different language."

Siobhan Charnay

Siobhan has a BSL interpreter who provides a voiceover for what she's signing.

She's profoundly deaf in both ears and says she now communicates with other people sometimes by using her mobile phone.

"It's the norm," she says. "It's just how I've grown up. We learn to cope by using our phones and typing a message in the notes page on the app.

Siobhan Charnay

"You show that to someone if you want to communicate.

"But I always believe that if you smile at people, hopefully you'll get the best and you can get through it."

Siobhan says she thought it was "a great moment" when Labour MP Dawn Butler had the confidence to use sign language to ask a question in the House of Commons and says it was a big moment for the deaf community.

"It was spine-tingling really because, finally, there's been British Sign Language shown in a public arena in front of some very powerful and influential people.

"It's quite sad that's it taken so long."

Siobhan says giving BSL protected status would be a positive step forwards.

"[It would mean] equality. That is the most important thing. The hugest impact, the thing that we would mostly achieve is equality."

It's not the first time an MP has used sign language in the Commons. Labour's Tom Levitt signed, as has Liberal Democrat Sir Malcolm Bruce.

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