Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

To watch the relationship between Karen Adam and her father, Leonard Mellis, is to see a beautiful bond unfold.

Able to finish one another’s sentences, the pair converse with ease.

The fact they are so in tune should not be particularly surprising, bar the fact that Karen has rarely heard her father speak.

Rather than focus on what some might perceive as silence, the pair have developed a deeper form of communication over the passing years.

Every expression and every feeling perfectly captured, rather than lost in a tangle of conversation.

We converse via BSL, and my dad told me how both himself and his friends suffered trauma because of their school years

Karen has acted as a coder for Leonard from a young age, enabling him to connect with the many aspects of society – where British Sign Language (BSL) is not widely known.

MSP Karen Adam, is hopeful that BSL will be readily available on the school curriculum.

Leonard, 73, was born Deaf, and has gone on to use BSL throughout life – although its use was frowned upon during his childhood.

From finding love to having a successful career in an optician, deafness does not define Leonard as a person.

But that does not mean to say that life has been easy, and Scotland is so far the only country in the UK that has given BSL recognition in law.

My dad has never seen it as a disability, it is society that sees it as a fault in him

The BSL (Scotland) Act 2015 made it a legal requirement for the Scottish Government and public bodies to promote, and facilitate the promotion of, the use and understanding of BSL.

As we celebrate International Day of Sign Languages (September 23) alongside International Week of the Deaf, what does BSL mean to those who use it?

It is estimated that 151,000 people in the UK use British Sign Language, and that 87,000 of them are d/Deaf.

The word deaf is used to describe or identify anyone who has a severe hearing problem, whereas Deaf with a capital D refers to people who have been deaf all their lives, or since before they started to learn to talk.

What it is like to navigate the world as a BSL user, and what more needs to be done to make our society, and in turn our communities, as inclusive as possible?

We spoke to BSL users and interpreters to find out more.

Karen Adam MSP, and Leonard Mellis, BSL users

Mum-of-six Karen Adam has been an MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast since 2021.

Scottish National Party MSP Karen Adam made an affirmation in sign language during the oath and affirmation ceremony at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh last year.</…….


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