British Deaf Association take complaints about UK government’s disability rights record to the United Nations
The British Deaf Association, with other Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) from across the United Kingdom, will today attend the United Nations in Geneva to highlight the government’s ongoing human rights violations and evasive behaviour towards a major United Nations committee.
The disability committee is reviewing the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People for the first time. The UK government ratified the Convention in 2011. DDPOs will tell the Committee that the government has ignored many of the questions put to it earlier this year as part of the review process. It will consider the government’s response to its questions and the DDPOs’ observations before quizzing representatives from the UK and devolved governments in Geneva later this week (23 and 24 August).
Referring to the government’s submission for the investigation, Dr Terry Riley OBE, Chairperson of the BDA, said:
"The BDA welcome this opportunity to present our concerns and reservations on the lack of progress from the UK Government with regards to the lack of implementation especially with regards to the legal recognition of British Sign Language (BSL) especially after the Scottish Government unanimously approving the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015. Formal legal recognition will enhance and improve the quality of life for Deaf people in all spears of life, that we take for granted.
No longer can deaf people be treated as second class citizens in a country where BSL is the 3rd/4th most widely use indigenous language in the UK. Enough is enough, we are now advocating for Language rights as a right, not as a token"
The British Deaf Association will tell the committee that a range of government policies – many arising from the austerity agenda – place it in breach of the convention. These shortcomings are aggravated, the campaigners say, by the failure of other public sector bodies such as local authorities and NHS organisations to deliver the support and safeguards set out in the convention.
Among the issues highlighted in the DDPOs’ submission are:
- British Sign Language (BSL) still has no legal recognition in the UK;
- The systemic linguistic exclusion of deaf BSL users in health, education, employment, access to criminal/civil justice, sport, telecommunications, broadcasting, and leisure;
- The failings of the Equality Act 2010 in protecting deaf BSL users as a cultural linguistic group (in fact hearing dogs are afforded more provision in the wording of the act than deaf people);
- Failure of government department and agencies to provide materials or services in BSL;
- The continued exclusion of deaf BSL users requiring BSL translation from juries due to the ‘13th person’ rule;
- Poor outcomes for deaf children placed in mainstream education without sufficient support;
- Little to no support for hearing families of deaf children wishing to communicate with their children in BSL;
- Access to Work caps meaning that many deaf workers are only provisioned enough support to pay for interpreters for three days a week;
The cumulative impact is that many deaf people are unable to live the independent, fulfilling lives that the convention commits nations to delivering. Instead, deaf people continue to face serious discrimination in accessing educational, employment and social opportunities.
The DPPOs will also point to the government’s failure to act on the recommendations of a separate inquiry report the committee published last December. The UN special inquiry, which was triggered by the DPPOs, concluded that:
“…there is reliable evidence that the threshold of grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities has been met in the State party”
The DDPOs' submission was co-produced by the British Deaf Association, Disability Rights UK, Reclaiming our Futures Alliance (including Equal Lives), Inclusion Scotland, People First Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, and Black Triangle.
- The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities investigation is assessing what steps the UK has taken to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. The committee is a body of experts, nominated and elected by governments. The majority of committee members are disabled/deaf people.
- The committee postponed its scheduled assessment of the UK (originally due in 2015) to hold a special inquiry into complaints by DPPOs that the government’s welfare reform policies had violated disabled/deaf people’s rights. The current assessment looks at a much wider set of issues, including our laws on mental health and mental capacity, employment policies and education.
- Before examining UK and devolved government representatives on Wednesday and Thursday the committee will meet with representatives of DDPOs to discuss their views on the formal written response already tabled by the UK government. The DDPOs have prepared their own submission as highlighted above.
- A copy of the government’s response to the ‘List of Issues’ produced by the UN committee is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disabled-peoples-rights-information-for-the-uks-first-periodic-review/list-of-issues-in-relation-to-the-initial-report-of-the-united-kingdom-of-great-britain-and-northern-ireland-government-response
- UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - Inquiry concerning the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland carried out by the Committee under article 6 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention
Press/TV/Radio: Interviews and photos are available with Dr Terry Riley OBE, Chairperson of the BDA, by contacting Christie Stolk at 02076974140.
About the British Deaf Association
The British Deaf Association (BDA) is a Deaf-led organisation focusing on Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) or Irish Sign Language (ISL) as their first or preferred language.
The BDA is the largest Deaf organisation in the UK that is run by Deaf people; united by shared experiences, history, and, most importantly, by BSL & ISL.
Since 1890, the BDA’s long standing commitment has been to ensure that the language, culture, community and heritage of Deaf people should be effectively protected by valuing the rights of Deaf people, with all their diverse experiences and abilities, and the usage of BSL / ISL.
The BDA wishes to see a society where sign language users have the same rights, responsibilities, opportunities and a quality of life like everyone else.
Our mission is to ensure a world in which the language, culture, community, diversity and heritage of Deaf people in the UK is respected and fully protected, leading to the full social inclusion for Deaf people. This will be achieved through:
- Improving quality of life by empowering Deaf individuals and groups;
- Enhancing freedom, equality and diversity;
- Protecting and promoting BSL / ISL;
- Establishing bilingual education for Deaf children.