BSL Statistics

How many people use BSL in the UK?  How many are Deaf?

Based on official statistics, we believe the total number of BSL users in the UK is 151,000 and that 87,000 of these are Deaf.

Deaf BSL users

Total numbers of BSL users

England 73,000 127,000
Scotland 7,000 12,500
Wales 4,000 7,200
Northern Ireland* 3,000 4,300
TOTAL 87,000 151,000

 

* It is estimated that there are around 4,500 Deaf sign language users in Northern Ireland, of which 3,000 are BSL users, and 1,500 are Irish Sign Language (ISL) users.

These figures do NOT include professional BSL users, e.g. Interpreters, Translators, unless they use BSL at home.

The above statistics are based on the percentage of people who reported ‘using British Sign Language at home’ on the Scottish Census (2011).

For the first time, the 2011 Census contained a question on languages which enabled individuals to identify as BSL users. Unfortunately, the question asked on the England and Wales Census was different to that on the Scottish Census, resulting in huge disparity in the data collected.

The British Deaf Association and other deaf organisations expected a much a higher percentage of BSL users in England and Wales than were actually reported. Figures extrapolated from Scottish Census, with the assumption that the UK’s population of the UK is around 12 times that of Scotland, produced more realistic figures – as shown in the table above.