Deaf News: European Union of the Deaf releases signed statement on Brexit

Posted on May 26, 2016

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The European Union of the Deaf (EUD) has released a signed and written English statement on the possibility of Brexit (Britain voting to leave the European Union in the referendum in June).

The EUD is a not-for-profit European non-Governmental organisation (ENGO) whose members comprise of National Associations of the Deaf, such as the British Deaf Association in this country.

The signed statement, in International Sign, can be seen below:

In the statement, which is signed by David Hay, from Britain (who is their Communication and Media Officer), the EUD says it is concerned that in the public debate around the referendum, media coverage concerning deafness or disability “has been lacking.”

They also say that they believe “a common European human rights agenda for deaf and hard of hearing persons is better achieved together within the EU.”

They point out that British Deaf people are currently able to work in other EU countries while being protected from discrimination by the European equal employment directive, which may not apply if Brexit occurs.

They also say that “UK citizens would not benefit from new legislation that is currently being developed, such as the European Accessibility Act,” which will set out accessibility requirements in a number of areas including communications technology.

The statement can be seen in sign language here and can be read on the site and in full below:

On 23rd of June, citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) will vote in a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union (EU) or to withdraw from it.

EUD is concerned about the impact such a withdrawal could have on the capacity of civil society organisations in Europe to advocate for European policies that are inclusive of deaf and hard of hearing persons.

So far, the public debate about the referendum has concentrated on issues such as the economy, trade agreements, legal issues, employment and immigration.  Media coverage on the subject of the livelihood, within or without the EU, of persons with disabilities, including deaf and hard of hearing persons, has been lacking however.

EUD recognises the democratic right of UK citizens to vote freely in their referendum on UK membership of the EU.

However, we believe that a common European human rights agenda for deaf and hard of hearing persons is better achieved together within the EU. Already in the past, many advances in combating discrimination and in strengthening equality for deaf and hard of hearing citizens have been achieved together.

For instance, the European equal employment directive prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation on the basis of disability and enables persons with disabilities to work in other EU countries. British citizens might not be protected by this legislation anymore, if the UK withdrew from the EU. Furthermore, UK citizens would not benefit from new legislation that is currently being developed, such as the European Accessibility Act. Once adopted, this act will set common accessibility requirements for certain key products and services, including transport, banking, telephony and audio-visual media services and related equipment. Due to its focus on ICT, it is highly relevant for deaf and hard of hearing persons, as it would allow them to benefit from a greater supply of such accessible products and services at more competitive prices.

The UK signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). As the EU has done the same, it is actively engaged in supporting EU Member States in achieving its objectives by adopting disability-inclusive European policies. We strongly believe that British deaf and hard of hearing citizens would benefit considerably from continuously having their rights protected in the European framework.

In the recent years of austerity, the rights of persons with disabilities, including deaf and hard of hearing persons, have been and continue to be undermined in EU member states. But we are in an excellent position to work towards more inclusive European policies: Two Members of the European Parliament use sign language as their native language, which provides us with more opportunities to advocate for the respect of deaf and hard of hearing rights in future European legislation.

Furthermore, EUD has led policy projects for deaf and hard of hearing persons, such as the InSign project, whose goal is to improve the communication between deaf and hard of hearing persons and the EU institutions. UK stakeholders, such as deaf-run businesses and a British university, took part in this project and benefitted from the expertise gleaned through it. Only when remaining in the EU, UK stakeholders have high chances of getting to participate in such European projects.

Incidentally, it was the British Deaf Association that founded EUD, formerly the European Community Regional Secretariat, in 1985; and it is still thriving. We strongly believe that together with UK deaf and hard of hearing civil society organisations, we have a much stronger voice advocating for rights of deaf and hard of hearing persons in Europe.  We should work together to remove barriers, not create new ones.

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Posted in: deaf news