Deaf News: BDA says leading UN committee has paved way for a British Sign Language Act

Posted on August 31, 2017

The following article is from the British Deaf Association:

In a landmark moment for deaf people in the UK, the UK government has been told by a leading UN committee that it must “ensure that legislation provides for the right to educated high-quality sign language interpretation…in all spheres of life”, highlighting a key loophole in current UK law.

The announcement came as part of the Concluding Observations of the UN
Committee of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) whose chairperson, Theresia Degener, was unfaltering in her clear criticism of the UK Government’s ‘grave and systematic violations’ of deaf and disabled people’s human rights.

The lack of legislated language rights for deaf people in the UK has led to severe failings that include poor educational outcomes, deaf people being put at extreme risk in emergency situations, and there being no access to British Sign Language in many areas of public life.

Steps have recently been taken through a BSL (Scotland) Act 2015 and an ongoing consultation in Northern Ireland, but UK Government has repeatedly ignored and failed to build on these promising starts by devolved administrations, and deaf people across the UK are still suffering.

The British Deaf Association (BDA) have heard innumerable harrowing experiences, including a deaf person who was attacked in the street, arrested, held overnight and not provided with an interpreter so was unable to explain that he was the victim, and 999 text services meaning that too much time spent lengthily inputting text detracted from administering potentially life-saving CPR.

Representatives from the BDA travelled to Geneva as part of a delegation of UK Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) to present this evidence to the UN CRPD committee.

The Committee then condemned the UK Government’s attempts to misrepresent impact through unanswered questions, misused statistics and a smokescreen of statements on policies and legislation which fail to implement the rights of deaf and disabled people.

The committee recommended that UK government needed to take steps to ensure “full and equal participation” is possible for deaf people on juries, allocate funding for sign language courses to ensure full inclusion in family life/education/work, and develop obligatory standards for securing access to information from public services
and authorities.

Addressing the UK Government, committee member Coomaraval Pyaneandee said “[I] want to see you come back as a world leader which at the moment, I’m afraid you are not, but [DDPOs] I congratulate. [They] are in fact, the world leaders in your country.”

Chairman of the BDA, Dr Terry Riley OBE stated that, “We were impressed with the openness of the committee to listen to our evidence and apply their significant legal experience. Therefore we are glad to see that the committee has expressly recommended that the UK government finally legislate to protect language rights of deaf people, and that so many of the committee’s remarks related to this. Deaf people have been passed over too long; there can now be no doubt that the government has been taken to task. Without language rights, we have no human rights.”

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Posted in: deaf news