This story all started when a deaf mother bought tickets to take her daughter to a Little Mix concert. She made what was a simple request for a British Sign Language (BSL)/English interpreter to be provided so that she could access the concert and have a shared experience with her daughter.
It is a commonplace reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act, that a BSL/English Interpreter is provided so that deaf people can access to language and communication and have an equal experience to others. In fact, the number of concerts and live events that are now providing interpreting services for deaf audience members is on the rise.
In this story Sally Reynolds placed her request with LHG Live a number of occasions, and it was rejected by the promoter, without a clear explanation as to why. Sally was fully aware of her rights under the Equality Act and decided to take the music promoter to court. She took out an injunction against them and just before the case was heard, they agreed that they would provide a BSL Interpreter for the Little Mix concert.
Sally was delighted as she would get to have access to the lyrics at the same time as her daughter meaning that she could share the feeling of being at a live concert and engage with what her daughter was listening to alongside her friends.
Upon the concert starting, it became apparent that the promoters LHG Live had not provided a BSL Interpreter for the two supporting acts.
This meant that Sally was unable to access the entire event, only having an Interpreter for a portion of the concert, denying her the same access as other audience members.
Sally decideded that she would take this one step further in a strong campaign to fight for deaf people’s equal access to services and is currently suing LHG Live under the Equality Act.
The BBC have covered this story extensively across their TV news and radio stations and it has gained coverage across other channels too.
Let’s move aside from the story for a moment to take a look at what I believe is a more worrying outcome of this story.
I have always believed that society is understanding of other people’s needs and would want others to have an equal experience and opportunity to life. From a number of the comments on this BBC news story Facebook feed, it is apparent how little the public know about and respect deaf people’s access needs.
Here are a selection of the comments that were made:
Ironically, compensation has not actually even been discussed in this case, Sally is suing the promoter in order to gain a legal precedence so that likeminded businesses will need to adhere to the Equality Act. Should there in fact be any compensation, his will be wiped out by the excessive legal fees in order to deal with this injustice. It is clear that despite having the Equality Act rooted in UK law, deaf people are being discriminated against in every day life.
And one comment in particular that just shows how many people still have crazy misconceptions:
Other comments readily did not understand that access to these services is not a want but a need:
Just because this is not life-threatening, does it render this situation unnecessary in terms of access? Deaf people have as much of a right to access whether it be at a medical appointment, soclitors meeting, job interview or live concert.
Despite the ignorant uninformed comments, there were people that understood why this was happening:
For me, this situation has highlighted that – yes we need to deal with the businesses and organisations who try and brush off their responsibilities under the Equality Act, but we also need to build more awareness in general society about deaf people’s access needs and WHY that is the case.
A story like this should have in my mind gained support and momentum instead of a number of comments of this nature and it shows that there is still a long way to go.