Toby Dawson: Deaf people need access to debates including all seven political parties, too

Posted on March 3, 2015

The UK’s broadcasters have acknowledged the changing political landscape in the UK by including leaders of seven political parties in their upcoming TV debates.

I think that it is absolutely imperative that Deaf BSL users are being treated just like their hearing counterparts in terms of information from the seven political parties.

It is disappointing to note that the debate which took place on March 2nd in London left out other political parties on the grounds that the three “main” parties are holding office in a disability capacity.

As the article on this site said:

“Panellists have been invited to participate since the Disability Minister’s portfolio is cross-Government, ensuring that all party representatives can answer questions and act on the wide range of issues that the audience might want to discuss. All questions will come from the audience”

But the House of Commons’ All-Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness has MPs from a range of different parties, not just limited to the so called three big parties, and perhaps that could have been a sensible criteria.

Toby Dawson

Toby Dawson

If Action on Hearing Loss and other Deaf charities are to proclaim that they are making the UK general election accessible for Deaf BSL users, then in my opinion, they need to make sure that the likes of the SNP, the Green Party, Plaid Cymru are involved to give Deaf BSL users full access to the policies and views of all the various parties.

After the Scottish Independence Referendum, the Scottish National Party’s membership has soared from 25,642 to more than 90,000, which has placed them as the UK’s third largest political party in terms of membership.

The Green Party has also received a significant boost to their membership in Scotland, and in England and Wales.

There is no doubt that Deaf BSL users in Scotland, England and Wales are among the people that have seen membership numbers being boosted.

Therefore, Deaf organisations in the UK have a duty to keep Deaf people on par with their hearing peers.

A prime example of how this didn’t happen was during the Scottish Independence Referendum, when a petition was launched asking for the debates to have live BSL interpretation.

Unfortunately the BBC and the STV didn’t do that and relied on atrocious live subtitling to make it “accessible” – although you could argue that the petition had an effect because a BSL interpreted version was shown a few days later.

As well as all seven main parties being involved, I feel that it is important that political issues are made accessible over the course of a parliamentary term rather than in short bursts, as that is when you really get to judge a political party, rather than over a period of intense campaigning.

If you look for BSL interpreted political TV programmes, as far as I am aware, it is only Question Time that gets to be interpreted.

I think that the strategy needs to be focused on sending a message to politicians that Deaf BSL users have a right to access information on a regular basis, not just during big events.

It will be fascinating to see how See Hear will present their version of a political theme show because they have announced that they will be holding a television debate bringing together GB’s biggest political parties.

Here’s the question – will Deaf BSL users be treated in the same manner as hearing people in the run up to the UK general election?

Toby Dawson is a deaf father of two, and is an enthusiastic student of Scottish history. Enjoys playing sports and he hopes to carry on as long as he can before old age sets in!

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. 

Make sure you never miss a post by finding out how to follow us, and don’t forget to check out what our supporters provide: 

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.

The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below:


Tagged: , ,
Posted in: toby dawson