TIMELINES: What was officially recognized as a language of the UK, March 18, 2003?

March 18, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Sunday, March 18, 2012


March 18, 2003, the government of the United Kingdom adopts the BSL Charter, officially recognizing British Sign Language (BSL) as a language of the U.K., along with English, Welsh and Scots Gaelic. BSL is not a universal sign language, however. Deaf communities in countries around the world have developed their own respective sign languages. For example, there is American Sign Language, French Sign Language and German Sign Language, to name a few. According to the BBC, approximately 20,000 – 50,000 people use BSL as their first language and figures from the British Deaf Association suggest that on any day up to 250,000 people use some BSL.


Today, Scottish scientist for Technabling—an Aberdeen University spin-off company in the U.K.—are developing a portable sign language app that recognizes BSL and translates the signs into text in real time. The app is called the Portable Sign Language Translator, or PSLT and it is part of a recent emergence of smartphone and tablet apps aimed at assisting the deaf and hearing impaired. The scientists assert that the PSLT will help deaf people communicate more efficiently with people who do not understand sign language by translating sign language in real time. Technabling developed the PSLT for British Sign Language, but the scientists claim the program will work with any recognized international signing system.