Throughout the world’s history, there have been moments where certain members of our societies have been denied the same access to human rights, opportunities and services. We ask the question. Are BSL Users and Deaf People Let Down by Equality Act?
This lack of inclusion and discrimination against others can happen because of the following:
- Country of origin
- Social status
If this imbalance of life had been allowed to continue, then the world would be a very unjust place to live in (and quite frankly, very boring!).
When women stood up for their right to vote back in 1928, if they hadn’t, who knows how much longer it would have taken for legislation such as the Equal Franchise Act 1928 to have passed.
If Malala Yousafzai had not stood up to the Taliban, there could still be no rights for girls and the right to education in Pakistan!
What if Rosa Parks had not given up her seat to a white passenger, there could still be full racial segregation!
The point is that these singular moments have shaped human history for the better. Movements that bring about positive change for a society that still continues strongly even now in the present day!
BSL Evidence Session
David Buxton, Director of Campaigns and Communications for the British Deaf Association (BDA), and Dr Terry Riley, BDA’s Chairman.
Both men were present to give evidence to the Lords Committee to examine the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on disabled people. They were the first to give evidence in BSL to a House of Lords committee, which is remarkable!
David Buxton told peers that the Equality Act just “simply isn’t strong enough” and proposed implementing a dedicated BSL Act. This would provide the same legal protection to those communities that communicate using the spoken languages of Welsh/Scottish Gaelic.
Both Mr Buxton and Dr Riley want more protection put in place to protect BSL users (we’re with you two!) and to set up a central fund that would pay for interpreters in a similar way to both Finland and Sweden’s government’s voucher system.
A case involving two BSL user parents seeking a school for their 4-year-old hearing child was brought up. They were told they would NOT be provided with an interpreter for information evenings of schools they wished to visit.
Riley said he understood the difficulties facing schools; “The school will say to the government, we don’t have the money. And the government will say it’s the school’s responsibility”. If school budgets are tight, the school could have to decide to purchase interpreting support over updating their computer hardware.
This leaves no clear accountability for either the school or the Government, leaving these Deaf parents stuck in the middle and STILL without a BSL Interpreter so that they can make these all important decisions.
Riley also pointed out how a BSL user is not currently possible to become an MP or peer. This is simply because an interpreter is not allowed on the floor; of either the House of Lords or the Commons. Nor is it possible for a BSL user to be part of a jury.
The introduction of new technology, among other things that can remove barriers are well in discussion, but when the system itself is unsupportive of progression, it is of real concern.‘Everyday barriers’ can still leave the Deaf community feeling unequal:
- Banks that don’t allow the husband/wife of a deaf person to make an important phone call on their behalf
- Failures to alert deaf passengers of announcements of platform changes at train stations
- Doctors and hospitals not having available interpreting services, especially in emergency circumstances
If BSL is your first or preferred language, then what reasonable adjustments should be made?
Simply translating into English is not grounds for reasonable adjustment.
Service providers have all the power to decide what reasonable adjustments they choose to make. Without a full understanding of deaf people’s needs, how are these service providers in any position to make such decisions?
So it is up to all of us to campaign for these all-important decisions. Ensuring that the necessary actions have been taken to allow equal access to services is a basic need that must be respected and sustained.
Watch the video of the evidence in BSL here: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/5badcf68-97da-4c91-883b-c38a770c852f
What are your feelings on this topic? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!