With a(nother) snap general election coming up, I was curious as to what each main party planned to do regarding giving BSL legal status, making life more accessible for D/deaf communities, etc.
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Note: whether or not you consider deafness and hearing loss to be disabilities, D/deaf people may be defined as ‘disabled’ under the Equality Act 2010. This is why I have looked into disabled accessibility and employment, e.g. travel announcements being available in BSL, funding for BSL interpreters, etc.
Putting my own political views aside, I have sought to include something positive about how each party aim to include D/deaf people and meet their needs… however, if a political party haven’t included anything regarding BSL, deaf communities, disabilities or accessibility, I won’t hide this fact!
The following information was gathered by researching each party’s manifesto and/or policies, and is correct at the time of writing.
Their manifesto doesn’t specifically mention Britain’s D/deaf communities or granting legal status to BSL, however they have pledged to publish a National Strategy for Disabled People before the end of 2020. This will seek to improve the benefits system, opportunities and access for disabled people in terms of housing, education, transport and jobs.
The tory manifesto is available in formats such as braille and large print, but not in BSL.
Labour have pledged to ‘adopt a British Sign Language Act, giving BSL full legal recognition in law.’ They are also aiming to ‘improve accessibility’ on public transport, however it is not known whether this will meet D/deaf people’s needs.
The Labour Party have also pledged to review the Access to Work scheme (AtW). AtW currently includes a maximum funding cap per person, which is not enough to fund BSL interpreters on each work day.
The Lib Dems’ manifesto includes their aim to ‘introduce a British Sign Language Act to give BSL full legal recognition.’ They want to continue to improve disabled access at train stations via the Access For All programme, but this programme generally focusses on physical disabilities, e.g. ramps for wheelchair access.
A manifesto accessible in BSL will be ‘available soon,’ according to their website.
The Green Party aim to ensure ‘full accessibility for disabled people’ at bus stops, bus stations and train stations. This is purely speculation on my part, but by ‘full accessibility,’ I hope this includes meeting D/deaf people’s needs.
Green currently have a summary of their manifesto available in Welsh and an ‘easy read’ summary, with ‘other versions available soon.’ It is unknown whether a version of their manifesto will be available in BSL.
The Scottish National Party haven’t released their manifesto yet, however Scottish Parliament (of which SNP hold the majority) unanimously passed the BSL Scotland Act 2015.
Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales) have pledged that they will work with various groups, including D/deaf people, as well as ‘organisations representing them, and professionals.’ The party will then ‘develop national strategies to ensure co-ordinated and equitable access to services.’ Plaid Cymru have also clarified that while they think that ‘disabled people should be encouraged and supported into employment,’ they do not support disabled people having to face the same obligations and threats of sanctions while seeking employment.
While the Brexit Party don’t have a ‘manifesto,’ per se, they do have a ‘Contract With The People.’ There is no mention of ‘deaf,’ ‘BSL,’ ‘disabled’ or ‘accessibility.’ You can download the contract as a PDF, however no other formats are available, i.e. no BSL, ‘easy read,’ or braille versions.
There is no mention of deaf, BSL or accessibility in their manifesto. However, UKIP ‘support [disabled people’s] inclusion in the workplace whenever that is possible’ and they are ‘committed to protecting the rights of disabled people.’
Not sure which political party you agree with the most? You can complete a quiz online (such as this one or this one) and select the answer which matches your views on the NHS, Brexit, the environment, education, etc. Whatever you do, please vote!