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Covid: Call For Briefings To Include British Sign Language

October 5, 2020

A woman is walking from Gloucester to Downing Street to call for the UK Government to provide sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings.

Campaigner Lynn Stewart-Taylor said the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all provided the service.

She said the issue was “life or death” for the deaf community.

The government said sign language editions of briefings were available on Freeview channels.

However, Ms Stewart-Taylor said many people were unaware these existed or were unable to access them and said it should not be up to individual broadcasters to provide the service.

She began the walk on Saturday to highlight the lack of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters as part of the ‘Where’s The Interpreter?’ campaign.

“This is a life and death situation. It’s making me very anxious,” she said.

“We’re getting information at such a late stage compared to the hearing community.”

Ms Stewart-Taylor, who is walking with fellow campaigner Mark Hodgson, wants to raise money for possible legal action against the government, which she says has breached the 2010 Equality Act.

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

“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.”

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.”

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