“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is an international treaty which identifies the rights of disabled people; as well as the obligations on Parliament to promote, protect and ensure those rights don’t stop” Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
If the optional protocol within this convention is ratified by the government, deaf and disabled people can share their experiences; which are then communicated to the UN. This can only happen when all preceding options have been tried. It is up to the committee to investigate and decide whether the convention has been broken.
The WST focuses its work around the UN Convention, as this is a sure fire way to bring about change for deaf people who are not being supported by the local governments.
One of the most relevant issues relating to deaf people is in article 9; Accessibility – “To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.”
Point ‘e’ states “to provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including professional sign language interpreters.”
The committee has remarked to the UK government that they must “ensure that legislation provides the right to educated high-quality sign language interpretation…in all spheres of life.” – which, as the BDA rightly stated – highlights the key loophole in current UK law.
This statement was made back in 2017, and here in the UK, we are still waiting to follow in the footsteps of the BSL Scotland Act and the Irish Sign Language Act.
The natural next step would be to follow the precedent set by Scotland and Ireland, allowing Deaf BSL users to be more vocal about their needs. It would be fantastic to think that with the power of the UNCRPD, we could see a BSL Act in England. (Although, not until Brexit has happened and the dust has settled of course.)
In my opinion, this is something we, as a deaf and interpreter community, need to prepare ourselves for. Governments will be looking to us for guidance on how to make services accessible. And, as a consequence, there will also be an increased demand for sign language interpreting. Therefore, as a profession, we need to be prepared for this to happen by supporting the next generation of interpreters.
We can all be a part of this exciting change, but we need to take action now to prepare for what will be a pivotal step for deaf people’s rights.
And like Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”