From Charlie Swinbourne, Editor: Four years ago I wrote an article for the Guardian about cuts affecting Deaf people in Bristol. Those cuts and the removal of services has continued, and that’s why, on Saturday, Deaf people in the area will march for equality and access.
Here’s the press release from the organisers:
To watch this in BSL, click play below:
Deaf and hard of hearing people will march through the centre of Bristol on Saturday 21st November from 11.30 to 12.30, starting in King Square and ending at Anchor Square.
The March has been organised to raise the profile of a forgotten group of the community and to re-affirm the Charter signed by Bristol Council in 2003 – which promoted access to public service information through sign language, set up teaching and learning of sign language, made sure “front-desk” staff had deaf awareness training and set up regular consultations with the community.
Bristol was the centre of excellence and provision for Deaf and hard of hearing people.
Bristol City Council was the first to sign up to the British Sign Language Charter in 2003 – others followed
Bristol City Council had 130 information videos in sign language…online
Bristol City Council had a BSL Forum to consult with Deaf people
Bristol City Council had a Deaf Equalities Officer
Bristol, since 19th century, had a DEAF Club meeting place & training centre for all
Now in 2015……ALL of this GONE!
Other local councils in the Bristol area have almost no information directly accessible to Deaf people.
Deaf people have limited or no access to Council information, to Public Services like 999, Accident & Emergency in hospitals and adult education nor to essential business like solicitors, electricity, water, gas, phone companies.
All that hearing people take for granted, Deaf people are denied.
“I wanted to take a free course in a community college but they would not provide an interpreter – I could not attend” – Deaf woman
“I had an operation in a Bristol hospital but the interpreter was booked for the wrong time and had to leave …. before I saw the surgeon.” Deaf man
“Three times we met with the Council officer and three times, despite assurances, they did not provide an interpreter.” Deaf Board representatives
“We provide a valued service to install aids in the home for hard of hearing people, but the Council have not yet confirmed its continuation” Technical Officer
All in the last month!
From 2015, Deaf people in Scotland are now protected by a new British Sign Language Act. In Bristol there was a voluntary charter signed in 2003 but now that is ignored. Our research is clear: Deaf people end up with poorer health than the rest of the community, because of lack of access. Our research shows: Deaf people have limited access to solicitors and justice is not being served. Our pilot work shows: Deaf can access 999 when video calling is enabled but at the moment, they have no means to call for help.
Deaf people are not invisible! Deaf people are part of the community!
The Board of the old Centre for Deaf People are still working hard to try to recover what has been lost and wish to engage to create a new integrated Charter and Service for all Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in the Bristol area. Deaf and hard of hearing children, adults, elderly… all want to contribute!
DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING PEOPLE ARE STILL HERE!
Sandra Smith (Chair of the Board)
“Due to serious financial problems we lost our centre which was open to all children, sports clubs, religious groups, elderly people both Deaf and hard of hearing. We are working to re-build this community. We want recognition and engagement not to be treated as invisible. We want to re-affirm the 2003 BSL charter with all public agencies. Why should Scotland have rights on this and we do not.?”
Dai O’Brien (Director of the Lost Spaces Project)
“When we invited Deaf and hard of hearing people in Bristol to come together in November, we discovered over 20 small interest groups of Deaf people just trying to get by. They have a great deal to offer to the society as a whole. We need to bring them together again and link them more strongly to the whole Bristol community.”
Issued by Centre for Deaf People
The Vassall Centre, Gill Avenue, Bristol BS16 2QQ
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