History in the making: London Borough of Harrow Council signed BSL Charter, 15th October 2015

Historic day for HUDC and Harrow deaf community in collaboration with Harrow Council, and British Deaf Association (BDA), British Sign Language (BSL) Charter went through motion during formal ceremony at Harrow Civic Centre, signed and witnessed by key members of Harrow council, HUDC, and BDA. Mayor of Harrow, Cllr. Krishna Suresh, Chair of BDA, Dr. Terry Riley OBE, President of HUDC, Asif Iqbal MBE, Leader of Harrow Council, Cllr. David Perry, and Chief Executive of Harrow Council, Michael Lockwood, signed commitment to BSL Charter – BDA’s five key pledges to improve access and the rights of Deaf people, good practice to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity, and ensure good relationships with Harrow’s Deaf community.

HUDC worked hard together with Harrow Council and BDA to ensure BSL Charter was introduced to Harrow to promote and raise awareness of BSL across the borough, “At Harrow United Deaf Club, we have been working hard to push for better changes and the start of our journey in improving access to information and services. It is also important that we work together to implement the real changes”, said Mr Iqbal, President of HUDC.

Thanks to hard work by HUDC, Harrow Council and BDA, Harrow became the second London Borough to sign the BSL Charter.

Dr.Riley, Chair of BDA, emphasised the importance of BSL Charter, “However this charter is not just about access, its about a commitment to ensure Deaf people are involved in the decisions making process and more importantly democracy has to be seen to come from within, it’s the cornerstone of our UK Governance.” Riley reminded special guests and invited dignitaries that the work doesn’t end today; there will be more challenges to yet to come and it was important to continue the partnership with different organisations to support and improve access for Deaf community in Harrow.

Five BSL Charter pledges:
1. Ensure access to information and services
2. Promote learning and teaching of BSL
3. Support Deaf children and families
4. Ensuring staff can community effectively in BSL
5. Consult with local Deaf community regularly

Leader of Council, Cllr. David Perry, gave a talk of his aspiration for signing BSL Charter, “Deaf people can face challenges when accessing council services and I firmly hope that by signing this pledge we can remove any barriers Deaf people face when accessing services.” Perry acknowledged how BSL Charter came into existence, “This comes as a result of our strong partnership with Harrow United Deaf Club” said Perry who showed his highly-regarded of Harrow Council partnerships with HUDC.

After the Charter was signed, Abidi, a deaf student from Hatch End High School presented delicious celebration cake to BDA with a special message of congratulation. Abidi told Dr Terry Riley “Many congratulation to BDA on their 125th Anniversary and the recent success of BSL Scotland Act” (which was recently passed a few weeks ago). The cake was also presented to the members of Harrow Council, HUDC, and BDA in recognition of their successful partnerships resulted Harrow Council receiving BSL Charter status. HUDC and Harrow Council will​ continue to work together and we have had set a shining example to councils across the country to follow suit.

By Andrew Sherwood