Deaf Lobby Day: Hundreds of Deaf people set to ask their MP’s for change at Westminster

Posted on February 7, 2014

Hundreds of deaf people are set to descend on Westminster on March 17th to lobby MPs and bring their campaign for better rights into the corridors of power.

Deaf Lobby Day is being held in Parliament’s historic  Westminster Hall. Up to 500 deaf people can attend in what could be the biggest ever mass gathering of deaf people inside the palace of Westminster.

Each deaf person would – all being well – have the opportunity to meet their MP – and, with an interpreter present, give an insight into their experience as a deaf person in the UK and appeal for change.

David Buxton

The event is being planned as part of Sign Language Week, led by the British Deaf Association and their Chief Executive David Buxton, and comes as a culmination of a negotiating process with the parliamentary authorities. The motivation for the event is to bring power to deaf people by bringing deaf people to the corridors of power.

“This is about giving deaf people an opportunity and a platform, with interpreters provided, to meet their MP and see what Westminster is like” said Mr Buxton.

“It’s an opportunity to get an understanding of what happens in parliament and hopefully inspire people to keep the campaigning momentum up in the long run.”

“There s a broad spectrum of lobbying so this is about deaf people getting access to that too. It’s important to start to work together for deaf people to achieve equality and human rights on a par with hearing people.”

The plan is that in Westminster Hall, that there will be sufficient interpreters to enable signers to speak to their MP’s. There will also be interpreted tours around the Palace of Westminster. For Mr Buxton, the mass Deaf Lobby is as much about meeting MPs as it is understanding how the political system works.

“This is as much about looking at things from a national level as it is about local level. If people understand Westminster then they can understand the local context. It’s not easy but it is important for deaf people to meet and know their MPs.”

“This is not a protest opportunity for deaf people and I need to be clear about that. This is an opportunity to meet MPs and we have to be strict on what we’re lobbying for. We’re there to lobby on facilities for deaf people in public services and that covers government services like health, education and benefits.”

Sylvia Simmonds is part of the Campaign Team for Facebook-based deaf rights campaign group the ‘Spit the Dummy and Campaign for a BSL Act.’ The group boasts over 11,000 members and is working with the BDA to encourage deaf people to attend the Deaf Lobby. The impact of campaigning in Parliament is something she feels is very important.

“Campaigning is really important so we are working together with the BDA. It’s been a year since we started the Spit the Dummy campaign on Faceboook and people have been expressing many of the the same sort of barriers and problems” she said.

“Sign language users are oppressed so we want to give that same message to the Government and let them know that we want equality.”

“The 2010 Equality Act is not working for deaf people. The term ‘reasonable adjustments’ is a big grey area and we need it black or white. The term is just not clear enough and sign language users are losing out.”

“In Parliament at the Deaf Lobby, the opportunity is there, with evidence, and there are enough interpreters around for deaf people to give MPs their stories.”

There are no guarantees that any MP will attend the Deaf Lobby so it is important that people who want to go get in touch with their MP first. Both the Spit the Dummy Campaign and BDA are providing template letters to send to MPs to request their attendance.

For more information about attending the Deaf Lobby on March 17th, visit the BDA website or the Spit the Dummy Facebook page. Tickets for the day must be obtained, for free, in advance.

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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