The Question: Should deaf people protest publicly to fight for their rights in 2014?

Posted on January 8, 2014

2013 was an interesting year to be a campaigner for deaf interests. Lots happened, but did anything really change?

What’s it going to take for politicians and big businesses to sit up and take notice of deaf people?

Let’s take a look at what happened in 2013.

NDCS were granted a debate in Parliament to talk about cuts to services for deaf children, over one hundred MPs signed up to a motion to support British Sign Language and Sir Malcolm Bruce got the UK’s deaf organisations together to agree on the wording of a Bill (which, as expected, failed to get time in the chamber).

Another BSL Bill made progress in the Scottish Parliament and then the Lib Dems passed a motion at their annual conference for the recognition of BSL as an official language. Plenty of MP’s supported the campaign to improve the availability of lip reading classes.

Social media became important with over 11,000 people joining the Spit The Dummy Group and 2,000 joining the Pardon Group. Online petitions attracted thousands of signatures.

A petition opposing Access to Work changes was supported by over 4,500 people (including Labour Big Beast MP Tom Watson) and was then followed by Stephanie McDermid’s petition calling on LOVEFiLM to stop being needlessly obstructive and let deaf customers know what films have subtitles on them or not. 12,000 backed that one.

I’m sure 2012 was nothing like as successful as that; but has anything really changed? Is anyone really any better off yet?

Deaf people of all kinds still feel like second class citizens when they use public services. Deaf people still lay confused and scared in hospital beds not knowing what’s about to be done to them.

For most, there isn’t a lip reading class for miles. Sign language lessons are prohibitively expensive so parents of deaf children can’t learn it and communicate with their kids.

Audiologists get away with dishing out hearing aids for one ear only. Deaf children struggle on in class without enough support and are then castigated for being tired as their grades and confidence tumble. LOVEFiLM still don’t care what you think.

So what’s going to change?

image001To make progress in 2014, I think campaigners have to step away from the computer and step on to the streets.

Without feet on the ground, banners and placards, ignoring a deaf campaign is as easy as closing the internet browser or deleting an email. Too easy.

Should 2014 be the year when deaf people and their supporters become a lot harder to ignore?

Should 2014 be the year when deaf campaigners are found protesting publicly until their demands are met?

Is it time to meet on the streets and show the world we’re here?

Or is it the case that protests just don’t work? Remember the huge demonstrations in support of fox hunting or opposing student tuition fees? Weren’t they a waste of time? Is it much safer and much less hassle to fight from the keyboard?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

To see our previous ‘Questions’ – and the answers our readers have given – just click here!

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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