The Welsh Assembly is trying to get control of bilingualism from the British government so that it can extend its language rules to the private sector.
Large numbers of public sector jobs are restricted to Welsh speakers only in an attempt to force more Welsh people to learn the language. The Welsh Assembly, responding in part to pressure from border-line militant groups, are seeking to extend legislation to the private sector requiring companies based in Wales to provide services in Welsh as well as English.
Out of approximately 3 million people that live in Wales, only 30% speak Welsh and for most adults it’s a matter of choice (lots of children now have compulsary Welsh lessons). Millions of pounds of taxpayers money is thrown at promoting the Welsh language including dual language road signs and translation services.
British Sign Language (BSL) is the first language of between 50,000 and 70,000 people in the UK. Deaf people really don’t have a choice whether they speak BSL or English – it’s hard enough to speak when you’ve lost your hearing over time, it’s pretty much impossible if you were born deaf. BSL is an official minority language recognised by the British government and has a similar legal status to Welsh and Gaelic. Try getting a BSL interpreter in a hospital or a signed version of a DVD though and the difference is immediately obvious. Interpreters are available on the end of a phone within minutes if you speak Polish or Punjabi or some other foreign tongue but if you’re deaf you get get a piece of paper and a pen.
The Disability Discrimination Act says that a deaf person is entitled to the same access to services that an able-bodied person is. That should include translation services, interpreters, even things that you wouldn’t think twice about like a TV with Teletext if you stop in a hotel which has TV’s in the room. In reality this doesn’t happen though. My father-in-law went deaf over a period of years and has some über-rare disease but when he goes to hospital he doesn’t have a sign-language interpreter.