A UK-wide team of eight deaf people who are also tech experts spent eight months with sign linguists developing and testing the new signs for the glossary. Team member Ben Fletcher, principal engineer with the Financial Times, says it is important to create a common language for deaf people in tech: “I have studied and worked in computing throughout my whole life, but tech and BSL have often been a difficult combination. There’s a huge list of computing terms, very few of which have dedicated and widely recognised signs, and others I just had to make up. It was very frustrating.”
Before the glossary was launched, deaf people often had to spell out each individual letter of the specialised terms they were using. Popular tech words and phrases now covered include ethical hacking, firewall, data breach, machine learning, and phishing. Secondary pupil Billy-Jack Gerrard, who attends St Augustine’s R.C. High School in Edinburgh, is deaf and wants to study AI and computer science at university: “The terms will make life so much easier and, in turn, be far more inclusive for deaf people like me who are wanting to pursue a digital career.”
Head of Digital Technologies and Financial Services at Skills Development Scotland, Phil Ford, adds, “This will help deaf people get jobs in tech while also enhancing inclusivity — all with the ultimate aim of plugging the skills gap in a sector that is vital for Scotland’s economy.”
You can find the complete list of signs on the Scottish Sensory Centre website. Kate Farrell of the Data Education in Schools initiative is keen to keep adding to the list, and told us, “Like the technology itself, which is constantly changing, the accompanying language has to evolve — we therefore welcome continued input from technologists.”
The new BSL lexicon is backed by government agency Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Sensory Centre, based in Edinburgh.