Heriot-Watt's role in shaping legislation, securing the future of Scotland's signing community, scoops the Guardian University Award 2017 for Social and Community Impact.
Our British Sign Language (BSL) programme, led by Graham Turner, Professor of Translation and Interpreting Studies, School of Social Sciences, was instrumental in shaping and influencing new legislation focused on British Sign Language. Heriot-Watt's research was critical in providing analyses that framed the consultation process leading up to the Bill. It made use of novel communications during the consultation phase, using Facebook, for example, to facilitate direct consultation in BSL with the national Deaf community about legislative priorities.
The award recognises the significant role of BSL research taking place at Heriot-Watt and its impact in communities across the UK and beyond. The Guardian University Awards 2017 showcases some of the great work carried out by UK universities.
Heriot-Watt University helped to secure the future of Scotland's signing community by driving forward one of the world's most progressive pieces of legislation in its field. Its work to promote the use of BSL helped to achieve the British Language (Scotland) Act, which received Royal Assent in October 2015.
Professor Graham Turner said, “We're thrilled to have won this prestigious award and that our work has been recognised for its contribution to British Sign Language users in Scotland.
The new legislation helps to overturn the widespread, chronic social disadvantage experienced by BSL users, and is transforming the prospects of deaf and hearing people nationwide.
“The Act is also crucial to addressing the severe shortage of interpreters because, by committing the Scottish Government to promote the use and understanding of BSL, it is expected to inspire an increasing number of people into the sector's workforce.
“This will serve to increase opportunities for BSL users, making it part of the everyday linguistic landscape for everyone in the country, something deaf people have waited generations to see.”
The Heriot-Watt University-led ‘Homeless Monitor' project was shortlisted in the research impact category due to its role in shaping the Homeless Reduction Bill. The Bill is under consideration by the House of Lords and has already received £61million in committed funding from the UK Government.
The Guardian University Awards 2017 took place in London on 29 March.