By Ashley Cowburn, on 11 July 2013
When Thomas Tillsye and Ursula Russell married in Leicester in February 1575, Thomas made his wedding vows in sign. Unknowingly, they were presented with a timeless wedding present – their marriage became the first recorded description of sign use in British history.
In 2003, British Sign Language (BSL) was recognised by the British government as a full and independent language.
Today, there are an estimated 50,000 – 70,000 people in Britain who use BSL as their preferred language. And, like most sign language communities, BSL is a minority language. Deaf communities within Britain have experienced centuries of discrimination in their fight for recognition.