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  5. UK Government breached Equality Act by failing to provide BSL interpreter for covid data briefings, says judge

UK Government breached Equality Act by failing to provide BSL interpreter for covid data briefings, says judge

The UK Government breached the 2010 Equality Act by failing to provide a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter for its scientific briefings on coronavirus, a judge has ruled today.

Failing to provide any BSL interpretation at two data briefings on 21.9.20 and 12.10.20 was a breach of the Equality Act, said the judgment today, with Justice Fordham ruling that the absence of any BSL interpretation for these specific data briefings constituted “discrimination against the Claimant by reason of breach by the Defendant of the reasonable adjustments duty.”

This is a win for Deaf campaigners, who have called on the Government to provide an in-person interpreter for its press conferences since March 2020 through the #WhereIsTheInterpreter campaign.

The judgment, however, still does not compel the Government to provide on-platform BSL interpretation at every televised briefing.

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive, RNID said: “We welcome the outcome of this case and recognise the particular efforts of everyone involved in the #WhereIsTheInterpreter campaign and bringing forward this issue. We have long lobbied for improvement in the accessibility of Government communications through Covid with our communications shopping list, and our Not Accessible, Not Acceptable campaign. Although this is a positive step, we urge the Government to go beyond the limited scope of the judgement and commit to the total implementation of our shopping list on accessible comms not just during, but beyond the pandemic.”

“This judgement comes on the same day as the Government’s National Disability Strategy which commits to building on the work done as part of the COVID-19 communications hub. This shows however, that there is still a long way to go before communications are truly accessible. Now is the time to work with deaf and disabled people and consider accessibility of Government comms across the board and in full.”

For media enquiries or comment

Rebekah McKinstry, PR Manager, telephone: 0203 227 6065 or email or prteam@rnid.org.uk

Karen Lester, Communications Lead, telephone: 0203 227 6065 prteam@rnid.org.uk

Notes to Editors 

RNID (the Royal National Institute for Deaf People) is the national charity making life fully inclusive for deaf people and those with hearing loss or tinnitus. Together, we campaign for an inclusive society. We connect people to practical advice and pioneer new treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus.

  • Read the full judgement here
  • RNID is the national charity making life fully inclusive for deaf people and those with hearing loss or tinnitus
  • Currently, one in five adults in the UK have a form of hearing loss. One in eight people have tinnitus. 
  • RNID was founded in 1911. For more than 100 years the charity has pioneered new treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus. It has promoted access to sign language and subtitles, brought in free hearing tests for new-born babies, worked with technology for cochlear implants and developed techniques to help people cope with tinnitus.  
  • We’re a collective force campaigning for an inclusive society. We make deaf people, and those with hearing loss and tinnitus, part of the conversation to drive change – and help friends and families, workplaces and communities stay connected. We’re a trusted source of practical advice and we pioneer new treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus. We’ve been around for over 100 years and, until everyone is 100% included, we’re here to stay. 
  • Our Infoline offers free confidential and impartial information on a range of subjects related to hearing loss and tinnitus. It is open between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Call: 0808 808 0123. Live chat and BSL infoline is available on our website at www.rnid.org.uk. 

RNID (the Royal National Institute for Deaf People) is the national charity making life fully inclusive for deaf people and those with hearing loss or tinnitus. Together, we campaign for an inclusive society. We connect people to practical advice and pioneer new treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus.