'Enough is enough' - deaf dad from Felixstowe says new bill would change lives

Chairman of the Ipswich Deaf Children's Society, Richard Platt, with two of his children ,Ashley and

Chairman of the Ipswich Deaf Children's Society, Richard Platt, here with two of his children, Ashley and Rosy Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

A deaf man from Ipswich has welcomed the news that British Sign Language is on course to become an official language. 

Richard Platt, the Chair of the Ipswich Children’s Deaf Society, says that, if adopted, the proposed bill will make a huge difference to the lives of deaf people living not just in Ipswich, but all over the UK. 

“It will improve our lives vastly and encourage organisations across the UK to learn BSL so they can open their doors to us,” he said. 

The private members bill, proposed by Labour MP for West Lancashire, Rosie Cooper, seeks to declare BSL an official language of the UK.

It would also provide a BSL Council to promote and advise on the use of BSL, and establish principles for how BSL is to be used in public services. 

The bill passed its first hurdle in the House of Commons on Friday, January 28. 

Richard, from Felixstowe, was born with 100% deafness and says he faces barriers wherever he goes.

Richard, from Felixstowe, was born with 100% deafness and says he faces barriers wherever he goes. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“It will give us equal access to education, health, public services, employment, transport, etc,” says Richard, who lives in Felixstowe and was born with 100% deafness. 

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“I constantly face barriers here. For example, the train station at Trimley St Mary is unattended, so, if I had a problem, I would have to speak to the intercom machine to ask for advice. Oh no! I'm deaf so cannot do that!” 

“We want to see BSL being used everywhere we go, for example, on all mainline train stations as we can't hear the announcements.” 

Meeting someone who is able to sign is, he says, “very uncommon.” 

“In schools, students learn French, German or Spanish as part of their GCSE curriculum, but when they travel abroad, everyone speaks English. 

“The children have a much higher chance of meeting a Deaf person.  

“Thankfully the Department of Education is looking into introducing BSL as another option for languages.” 

MP for Waveney Peter Aldous spoke up in support of this on Friday, praising campaigners Ann and Daniel Jillings from Lowestoft.

The BSL GCSE ought to be introduced, he said, “as quickly as possible.” 

Chairman of the Ipswich Deaf Children's Society, Richard Platt, with two of his children, Ashley and

Three of Richard's five children have hearing loss. He, Rosy and Ashley were thrilled to see deaf actress Rose Ayling-Ellis waltz to victory in Strictly Come Dancing last December. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Richard agrees. 

“We waited far too long for this.  

“We need support every time we go to the doctors, opticians or dentists etc as we cannot get interpreters. We rely on family members to help us with communication which is unfair on them, and us, too.  

“Enough is enough.”