The National Disabilities Conference on 4 July in London was organised by Government Knowledge. This is an important event at this moment in time as benefits are being cut, wages are frozen, jobs are cut, and people with disabilities are increasingly marginalised.
In the UK, less than 70,000 deaf people use sign language however there are approximately 10 million deaf and hard of hearing people who do NOT use sign language – they might lipread and/or use their residual hearing, and therefore rely on captions and lipspeakers. We would expect, therefore, that a national conference of this nature about access, inclusion and disability would be accessible to its OWN customers. We would also expect such an event to be accessible without having to fight for such access – which is our right, not a privilege, under the 2010 Equality Act.
NADP (National Association of Deafened People) asked Lidia Best to attend on their behalf. They requested communication support (speech to text) as Lidia is deaf, she does not use sign language. Speech to text support provision at the event was confirmed by the organisers. Delegates were asked to pay almost £300 each to attend and NADP paid a reduced fee.
After NADP’s request for speech to text support, 121 Captions were contacted by Government Knowledge for information on providing captioning for this conference. They did not book any speech to text services.
Lidia turned up to the National Disabilities conference to find only British Sign Language interpreters were available, and there was no speech to text. There was an induction loop but it did not work. A loop can work for some deaf people, but not all deaf people have enough residual hearing to be able to use one. A lipspeaker can work for those deaf people who can lipread, but not all deaf people can read lips. Therefore speech to text is a necessary service.
Mrs Lidia Best, NADP trustee
What is shocking is that such access had been requested by NADP and confirmed by the organisers Government Knowledge. This conference is expensive to attend, but for a disabled person to attend and to find it inaccessible, when it had been confirmed that it would be, is unacceptable. The conference organisers should be making this kind of event affordable and accessible for disabled people on benefits who would be best placed to explain the relevant issues. Government Knowledge say they have provided access for all delegates and have followed all requests – which we know not to be true. Government Knowledge checked their system and they had no special requests for communication support. They asked Lidia if she had organised the speech to text reporters herself. They even blamed Lidia for not telling them.
We have asked the deaf community if any British Sign Language users attended this conference. There has been a deafening silence.
This is a common occurrence for deaf and hard of hearing people who do not sign, to request speech to text at events and find it is not provided, or to turn up and find there are only sign language interpreters. We have had enough. This has got to STOP.
Deafness can happen to anyone. It could happen tomorrow to your friend, your parent, or even YOU.
There are 1 in 6 people in the UK with a hearing loss who don’t sign. Could you be next?
– With thanks to Mrs Lidia Best, NADP Trustee
Support ALL deaf people on Facebook: Pardon? I’m deaf. When will you listen? We need access for All!
Further comments about this event are on Facebook : Disability Rights UK
…. and to add a little more irony, check THIS out – another shining example of our government’s inclusive attitude towards the disadvantaged, where Government Knowledge hosted a conference about financial inclusion… a shame the tickets are £320!
You can join the Deaf People Against Welfare Cuts campaign on Facebook – look out for connected talks and events happening across London.