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On Tuesday 27th October, Baroness Deech, Chair of The Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee, welcomed Terry Riley and David Buxton to the House of Lords, announcing that it was the first time BSL had been used to submit evidence to a select committee.

Evidence was heard via BSL Interpreters Matthew Banks and Roger Beeson.

The Committee were told why the BDA believe the Equality Act 2010 is not enough to protect deaf people and to get a clearer picture on why there is a case for the legal recognition of BSL.

Both Terry and David submitted strong arguments for the introduction of new legislation, stating that under the current Equality Act 2010 hearing dogs for the deaf actually receive more protection than BSL users. The basis of the argument stems from the fact that there is no provision for BSL under the Equality Act and that until a piece of legislation actually cites BSL then the problems deaf people face will continue.

Further barriers are created with the term ‘reasonable adjustments’ prompting the BDA to call for a clearer definition.

Whilst Terry Riley praised the Committee for their positive attitude towards BSL (having invited the BDA to give evidence, providing BSL interpreters and opening the meeting with the announcement of the Westminster first) he stated that sometimes a positive attitude is not enough and you need legislation.

Examples of bad practice were given; the use of children to ‘interpret’ for deaf parents in medical situations, the refusal of schools to provide BSL interpreters for adults attending parents’ evenings, support staff working with deaf children with BSL skills far below that of the deaf child they support and deaf people signing medical consent forms without actually understanding what they mean.

In addition to a BSL specific piece of legislation, the BDA also called for the creation of a BSL commissioner role and for the regulation of the interpreting industry.

The full, unedited, transcript of the Committee meeting will be published on the Parliament website within the week.

DeafLondon watched with interest and fully support the arguments of the BDA. We are very keen to know the Committee’s decision – we’ll be keeping our eyes open.

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