Lessons in sign language should be available to everyone, says Rose Ayling-Ellis

Rose Ayling-Ellis

Actress Rose Ayling-Ellis is advocating for free sign language instruction for those in need, such as the guardians and parents of deaf children. It has been said that the funding available at the moment for sign language tuition is erratic and insufficient.

According to Rose Ayling-Ellis, being deaf is something you embrace rather than try to overcome.

As the first deaf actress to portray a regular character on EastEnders and the winner of Strictly Come Dancing in 2021, the 28-year-old star who was nominated for an Olivier award made history.

She claims, however, that she cannot believe that some parents and guardians of deaf children are required to pay for sign language instruction because she uses British Sign Language (BSL).

She complained to the BBC that it was unfair to have to pay to talk to your own child.

There are six levels of British Sign Language instruction. Basic or introductory courses may be free, but the price of accredited courses can range from roughly £200 to £700, depending on the provider and level.   .

A picture of Rose Ayling-Ellis from her childhood
Around the age of two, Rose began signing.

According to Martin McLean, senior policy advisor at the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS), local governments do not allocate enough money for BSL instruction, so most parents who want to learn the language to a meaningful level will have to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds in tuition.

A "postcode lottery" results from the funding model's inconsistency, he continues, as some local authorities provide funding while others do not.   .

"It is wrong that families may have to choose between learning a language that is essential for their children and simply paying their electricity bill during the cost of living crisis," claims Mr. McLean.

Rose uses her hearing aid and lipreads most of the time, but occasionally she also uses a sign language interpreter because she claims to miss a lot of what is being said.

Face-to-face communication is also a part of sign language, in addition to hand gestures. There are regional differences as well as its own grammar and vocabulary.

Rose claims that learning to sign didn't always become popular, but it did after she appeared on Strictly.   .

When Rose was a young child, her parents were advised against teaching her sign language because other family members had heard from a specialist that it would prevent her from learning to talk. However, studies have shown that rather than preventing the development of speech, sign language may actually promote it.

Rose's mother claims that because she understood how crucial communication was, she set aside funds for sign language lessons.

Rose says, "As she learned, she taught me. Speaking was difficult for me, so knowing some basic sign language was very helpful. ".

A staggering 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, who are less likely to be familiar with BSL. According to the British Deaf Association (BDA), acquiring a language during the first five years of life is crucial, and lack of exposure to any language can have long-term effects on a child's cognitive growth and general well-being.

Rose Ayling-Ellis with Katie, Alvie and Joe
Joe, Katie's spouse, and their son Alvie reside in Cornwall.

The government should provide free BSL instruction for all parents and legal guardians of deaf children, according to a petition started by Katie Littlejohns, whose two-year-old son Alvie is deaf.

She claims that when she learned that Alvie was deaf at the age of seven weeks, she was overtaken by the amount of information she needed to learn.

At 10 weeks old, his hearing aids were fitted, and I inquired as to whether we would need to learn sign language. We were told, "Oh no, don't worry, you don't need to. '".

According to Katie, hearing aids are fantastic, but there are some circumstances in which they might not perform as well, such as loud and busy environments, so she made the decision to learn to sign. She was shocked, however, to learn that many families had to cover the cost of the courses.

Katie says, "I have a friend whose young son cannot use hearing aids or a cochlear implant because he is completely deaf.". "She's been able to get some funding. His family has spent thousands, and at two years old, her son will only be able to communicate using BSL. Everyone requires communication, so why is it so expensive?

Many local governments in England already provide funding for sign language lessons for parents of deaf children, and we offer funding for a variety of British Sign Language certifications through our adult education budget and advanced learner loans. ".

A spokesperson for the Scottish government stated that efforts to create a new BSL national plan are currently underway. She also mentioned that the Scottish government annually funds the NDCS, which has supported opportunities for families to learn the fundamentals of BSL.

BSL, along with Welsh, English, and other languages, are taught in schools in Wales, according to a spokesperson for the Welsh government. There is also "guidance for supporting progression in BSL for deaf BSL users as well as allowing schools to introduce BSL to other learners," the spokesperson added.

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities declared that it was committed to enacting sign language legislation, which would include "providing free family sign language BSL/ISL (Irish Sign Language) classes to deaf children, their parents/guardians, siblings, and grandparents.". However, it also stated that because the executive branch is currently inactive, no legislation can be passed without the approval of the executive.

Rose wanted the moment to capture how joyful being deaf is when the music stopped during her couple's choice dance on Strictly Come Dancing.

Since her victory and the appearance of her interpreter on television alongside hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, attitudes toward sign language have been shifting.

Rose Ayling-Ellis and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice
More than 30 million people have watched Rose and Giovanni's Strictly performance.

The British Sign Language Bill, which was passed in 2022, designated BSL as an official language of Wales, Scotland, and England. A new BSL GCSE qualification will be made available in schools starting in September 2025, according to the Department for Education in England.

The General Teaching Council is collaborating with the University of Edinburgh on the creation of a primary education and BSL undergraduate degree program, according to a spokesperson for the Scottish government. This program "would result in graduates qualifying as primary teachers with enhanced BSL skills," the spokesperson said.

For her creative signing in a West End production of Shakespeare's As You Like It in February 2023, Rose received an Olivier nomination.

Because I don't believe I would be at the Oliviers if I didn't celebrate my identity, she says, "I never overcame my deafness and I'm so glad I didn't.".

"It is incredible to be recognized, but more needs to change; sign language should be a right, not a privilege. Society needs to accept that this is our language and that everyone who needs it should have access to it without charge. ".

Watch . Signs of Change, says Rose Ayling-Ellis. at 21:00 BST on Monday, June 26th on BBC One. Alternatively, catch up later on. The BBC iPlayer.

Learn more by reading Rose's interview on the. Obtain All.  podcast.

Read . Tiny Happy People from BBC. a manual on how to support the language and communication development of your deaf child.

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