Campaigner calls for British Sign Language interpretation during coronavirus briefings

A woman is walking from Gloucester to Downing Street to call on the UK Government to provide British Sign Language (BSL) interpretations during coronavirus briefings.

Campaigner Lynn Stewart-Taylor has said that interpretations are issue of “life or death” for the D/deaf community.

At present BSL interpretations are currently available only in some devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

UNAVAILABLE

Beginning the walk on Saturday (3 October), Ms Stewart-Taylor is walking to raise further awareness of the importance of British Sign Language, especially during this pivotal time. 

In response to the campaign, the UK Government has said sign language editions of briefings were available on Freeview channels.

However, Ms Stewart-Taylor has detailed that many people are unaware of the access and the service shouldn’t be to individual broadcasters to provide the language that is used by almost 87,000 BSL-using deaf people in England.

“This is a life and death situation. It’s making me very anxious,” expressed MS Stewart-Taylor.

“We are in a national emergency. There are 87,000 BSL-using deaf people in this country.

“Deaf people have been telling me that the government’s refusal sends a message to them to say, ‘we don’t care if you deaf people live or die’.

“This is really impacting their mental health and wellbeing.”

INFORMATION

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: “We are committed to supporting disabled people through every stage of this pandemic and have established BSL interpretation at the No 10 press conference via the BBC News channel and iPlayer, available on all TV packages as part of Freeview.

“The BBC has also made their video feed for the BSL interpreter available to all other broadcasters and for use on No 10 social channels.

“We continue to work across government to ensure that information and guidance is fully accessible.”

Even so, throughout daily briefings and the 8pm service announcement from all party leaders across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the English broadcast with Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not have an interpreter.

Alongside Ms Stewart-Taylor, campaigner Mark Hodgson is walking from 3 October to 16 October to raise awareness of the need for interpreters during coronavirus and governmental briefings.

The pair are looking to raise enough money to also take possible legal action against the government, which the pair believe has breached the Equality Act 2010.

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