Message of support to the #WhereIsTheInterpreter campaign from RAD, delivered by Radha Starr
Friday 16 October 2020
It is an honour to be here today on behalf of the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD), and to be standing with other deaf organisations and individuals to raise awareness of this important issue.
We’d like to congratulate Lynn on the amazing work she has done over the past several months. It has been truly inspiring.
Since 1841, RAD has been providing services to deaf people in their first or preferred language, usually British Sign Language. We celebrate deaf language, community and culture. We work to ensure that deaf people have access to the services they want and need – and that RAD can support the changing needs and aspirations of deaf people.
But just how accessible does the future look for deaf people? If the Government’s recent Covid-19 announcements are anything to go by, a weather forecaster might say “uncertain – outlook not good”.
Thankfully, a lot has changed since 1841. Services and accessibility have improved. More laws are in place. But it is clear that a greater effort is required if we are to achieve a fairer, brighter future for deaf people.
Like the other deaf organisations who have supported the #WhereIsTheInterpreter campaign – we are here to stand up for the rights of deaf people.
For many deaf people, BSL is their first or preferred language, whilst some cannot access the English language. Therefore, providing any form of information, advice or guidance in BSL is imperative for deaf people – not only in terms of accessible information, but also for ensuring equality.
Sadly, this has not always been the case during the pandemic.
The UK Government has continuously held with televised briefings and issued critical announcements without a BSL interpreter. This lack of information has created anxiety, worry and confusion for many deaf people.
RAD is a provider of services for deaf people. We have seen first-hand the impact that this has had. We know of deaf people who have been totally unaware of key Government announcements – like the ‘Stay At Home’ message back in March, for example – because of a lack of BSL provision.
This situation has put deaf people’s health, wellbeing and lives, at risk.
The Prime Minister will know better than anyone else that it is the first duty of the Government to protect its citizens.
Like many other deaf organisations, we have worked tirelessly throughout this turbulent period to translate important Government announcements into BSL – stepping in to fill the void in accessible information, and working with others to create vital resources and guidance.
But deaf organisations can’t continue to pick up the slack.
We understand that the Government is to again hold regular televised press briefings, starting this month. This presents the perfect opportunity for the Prime Minister to show his commitment to deaf people – and to creating a fairer, more equal society – by making these briefings as accessible as possible.
Together with the other organisations who have supported this campaign, we are calling on the Prime Minister to make one simple, reasonable adjustment:
Please provide an in-person BSL interpreter for all live Government announcements and briefings.
No one would expect English hearing people to access Government announcements in their second language, for example French. So why should it be expected of deaf people, whose first language is BSL?
Today, the Prime Minister has the perfect opportunity to start improving equality and access for deaf people, and to show that change is in the air.
We hope that he grasps this opportunity and does the right thing.