Dawn Butler MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, has today joined in
marking the International Week of the Deaf (IWD).
The IWD is an initiative of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and it was first
launched in 1958 and is now celebrated annually by the deaf community.
It is considered an important week for people from all around the world to come together
to raise awareness about the rights of the 70 million deaf people around the world.
Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, said:
“I am delighted to support the International Week of the Deaf. This is also an important
week for us to recognise how special deaf people are as well as their remarkable
achievements in society, and I will be using this week to promote full inclusion for sign
I have always believed that equality is equality, you cannot pick and choose. In my new
role I will continue fighting hard for equal treatment for the deaf community, and this
includes pushing for British Sign Language to be given full legal status as is afforded to
It is so important that British Sign Language users feel included in all aspects of society
and that they are able to access education in their first language. Together we must
take strong action and end the inequality for deaf people.”
Dawn, who is herself able to hold a limited conversation using British Sign Language
(BSL), has a history of actively supporting the deaf community to give them a voice in
Parliament. On the 16th March 2017 to mark Sign Language Week 2017 and ahead of
the 14th anniversary of British Sign Language (BSL) becoming an officially recognised
language, Dawn became the first MP to ever ask a question in BSL in Parliament.
Dawn asked the government to commit to giving BSL full legal status, which would
mean that the estimated 151,000 BSL users in the country would be given protections
and rights which are afforded to other recognised languages.
Following this Dawn then worked to get a BSL Act in the Labour Party manifesto and
also signed a special Labour Party manifesto video for the deaf community. Dawn recently
received a nomination for the Patchwork Foundation’s prestigious MP of the Year award
partly due to these achievements.
There are an estimated 900,000 severely or profoundly deaf people living in the UK and
Dawn has also worked to ensure that Parliament is as accessible as possible. Dawn
recently wrote to the Speaker of the Commons to raise issues surrounding accessibility
for deaf people in Parliament.
Asif Iqbal, President of the Harrow and Brent United Deaf Club, has worked
with Dawn on her previous campaigns. Mr Iqbal said of IWD:
“Deaf people can achieve anything except hear, ranging from education, voluntary/
paid work and family life, thus contributing positively to society. Support us to be fully
inclusive within society by embracing our BSL with positive attitudes, remove barriers
that prevent us from accessing or taking part (by changing your mindset. E.g. instead of
saying ‘we can’t provide this…’, change your thinking to ‘what can we do to make it
happen’ attitudes) and accept that we have lots to offer.”
Michael Vincent, a magician who performs for thousands of subscribers on
YouTube and is also deaf, has joined with Ms Butler and Mr Iqbal in making
a video to support the week. Mr Vincent said:
“I am deaf and I’m a magician! I am learning BSL so accept who I am as I have lots to
give. I work as a consultant, raising awareness and advice on accessibility, ensuring
equal participation. Support our work and be part of the positive change by learning
BSL and supporting deaf people to thrive without barriers as early as possible. It’s never
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