Deaf History March 22nd 1912

Parliament as it looked from south of the river in 1912

If you thought that campaigning and lobbying were recent additions to the BDA’s portfolio, think again. On this day one hundred and five years ago, the Chair of the BDDA Rev. W.W. Adamson led a group to Westminster to lobby a minister from the Home department about issues for Deaf people with the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1906, which dealt with the right of working people to compensation for personal injury at work.

This report of the visit appeared in the following days issue of “The Times” 

“At the House of Commons yesterday Mr. Ellis Griffith, Under-Secretary for the Home Department, received a deputation of representatives from the chief societies which work on behalf of the deaf and dumb throughout the country. They attended in order to place before him their views in regard to hardships which, it was said, had been caused to the deaf and dumb by the working of the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

“The Rev. W. W. Adamson (Chairman of the British Deaf and Dumb Association) said there had always been a certain amount of difficulty in obtaining work for deaf and dumb workmen, but it had been increased since the Workmen’s Compensation Act came into operation. As a result, a great many deaf and dumb workmen were being brought into the class known as casual labourers. In some small workshops employers were willing to engage deaf and dumb workmen, pay the extra insurance premiums, and endeavor to recoup themselves by paying less than the standard rates of wages. Then they found themselves opposed by the trade unions.

“Mr. Ellis Griffith, in reply, said it was impossible, either by sympathy or by legislation, to put the deaf and dumb man upon the same level as the hearing man. In 1906 an attempt was made to meet the difficulty, but an amendment, which would have included the deaf and dumb, was lost. When that was rejected difficulties at once arose. In the present state of the law there would be very great difficulty in bringing pressure to bear on the insurance companies to compel them to take extraordinary risks on the same terms as ordinary risks.
No one had suggested that the State should make up the difference between the ordinary and the extra premium. That would be a difficult thing to do, though they were living at a time when the State had taken upon itself responsibilities towards those in exceptional positions which it had never incurred before.

“Therefore the proposition was not so extraordinary as it would have been if it had been propounded by a deputation ten years ago. The point was whether the Home Office could help them by bringing pressure to bear on the insurance companies in order to get them to take a less commercial, or a more sympathetic, view of the matter, and by enabling the employer to know where he stood if he had a deaf and dumb man in his employment.
That the Department would endeavor to do. It was also in contemplation to appoint a committee to consider amendments which might be found to be necessary in the Workmen’s Compensation Act. He did not know when the committee would be appointed, but when it was the case put forward by the deputation would be considered.”

The Times March 23rd 1912