Andy Palmer: How Miliband and Cameron could be pursuaded to do more for deaf people

Posted on September 26, 2013

‘Cameron and Miliband both pledge better communication rights for deaf people’.

It’s a fantasy headline but could become reality.

Deaf people want to be better represented by political parties or government and the next general election could be a golden opportunity to advance the cause further than ever before. An opportunity for deaf issues to take centre stage and even make the big party leaders sit up and take notice. It’s possible to get Miliband and Cameron to listen, but only if the strategy is right and focused.

The 2015 election is tipped to be very close and in close elections, relatively small groups of people, like deaf people, can become crucial to the outcome by wielding a disproportionate level of influence over the result. Just as the Liberal Democrats became kingmakers 2010, deaf people could play a similar role in some key marginal constituencies, where the result will be close, in the run-up to the 2015 vote and politically punch above their weight.

More time, money and effort will be spent by political parties on winning marginal constituencies. In these constituencies, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband know that a few hundred votes going one way or another could decide not only who gets to be the local MP but essentially, who occupies Number 10. The deaf people in these areas voting together could be enough to swing the vote and hold the keys to Downing Street.

There are 28 marginal battleground constituencies where the sitting MP has a majority of less than 1,000 votes. The MPs and their rival candidates are very keen to impress the voters and that includes deaf people. They’ll be visiting the deaf club and lip reading class if they think its worth it.

In these constituencies, an alliance of only a few hundred deaf people and their supporters is all that’s needed to have the potential to sway the result, get the candidate’s full attention and demand that they support improved rights for deaf people or lose the deaf vote.

What if the local deaf club, lip reading class, sign language class or deaf children’s society formed an alliance? Maybe that could be enough to make an impact and get the candidates and parties listening. It could be easy to do. We have seen how effective Facebook groups are at uniting deaf people for a cause.

All over the UK there are examples of deaf people being treated as second-class citizens in schools, hospitals and at work but deaf people in only a few areas, supported by their activist friends across the UK, could create enough leverage to put deaf rights on the agenda. If a few seats depended on it, Miliband and Cameron might just have to listen.

Yes, it’s a long shot. Yes, it would take organisation. Maybe this idea is pure fantasy but where there is a will, there really could be a way that Cameron and Miliband could do something for deaf people at the next election.

By Andy Palmer, Deputy Editor

Andy volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society on their website, deaf football coaching and other events as well as working for a hearing loss charity. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP (all views expressed are his own).

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