Government recognition of BSL as language in own right coincides with publication of Understanding Deaf Culture by Paddy Ladd

News summary

Secretary of State Andrew Smith and Minister for Disabled People Maria Eagle announced that the Government will recognise British Sign Language (BSL) as a language in its own right and will give 1 million in funding to support the move. This coincides with publication of Understanding Deaf Culture by Paddy Ladd.

Understanding deaf culture: in search of deafhood

By Paddy Ladd Published by Multilingual Matters March 19, 2003

The world of the Deaf is brought vividly to life in this ground-breaking, moving and challenging new book by Paddy Ladd, the man who pioneered Deaf television programming in Britain. Dr Ladd presents the hidden world of Deaf communities in the words of Deaf people themselves, arguing forcefully that they are best seen as a linguistic minority.

He demonstrates the richness of a worldwide culture, sustained by the language of signs, spanning the 5,000-year history of Western civilisation. Ladd tells us that philosophers from Socrates onwards pondered what Deaf communities have to teach us about being human, and how 100 years before Princess Diana encouraged a new generation of the hearing to sign, Queen Victoria used sign with a servant.

Ladd writes powerfully of Deaf pride. But he also records the 19th- century perception of the Deaf as "savages", an inferior people who needed to be "cured" of their condition, often by crude experimental methods. He details its ongoing effects on an education system in which the average Deaf child now leaves school with a reading age of eight.

He challenges medical opinions, saying that more independent research is needed to establish the value of cochlear implantation, a procedure often touted as miraculous but which has resulted in many deaths.

Understanding Deaf Culture reveals a world in which a growing number of the hearing - 90 per cent of Deaf children are born to hearing parents - are now taking an active interest. The number of Britons with a qualification in sign language now tops 100,000.

In revealing the hidden world of the Deaf, Paddy Ladd not only adds to our understanding of history, but points to the way Deaf communities and the use of sign can illuminate and enrich the future of us all.

DR PADDY LADD, who was born deaf, lectures in Deaf Cultural Studies at the University of Bristol's Centre for Deaf Studies. His work has ranged from pioneering BBC TV programmes for the Deaf to signed performances at Bob Dylan concerts, from creating the world's first sign language pop video to being the first non-American to hold the Powrie V Doctor Chair in Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University, Washington DC.

For further information, please contact:
Paddy Ladd: Text (NOT voice please) messages 07766 288 717
Leave phone message 0117 954 6919 Email:
Kathryn King at Multilingual Matters: Tel: 01275-876519 Fax: 01275-871673