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March 19, 2013

A BSL Act: to do or not to do, that is the question

Last night I posted my thoughts on Twitter (@Deaf) about any current campaign for a BSL Act, as well as discussion with a few people. This blog post is a fuller explanation of those comments.

Personally I think there is only one way to get a BSL Act on the government agenda at the minute, that's through compliance of the UN Convention on the Rights of Person's with Disabilities (UNCRPD). That's it. Any campaign for a BSL Act as stand alone, is probably going to fail and you will be banging your head against a brick wall, years from now. My only exception to this thought: unless of course the Liberal Democrats use their clout in government to push such an Act through on the basis of their own party policy (I am not hopeful).

We are currently living in times of austerity, people are fighting to keep existing services - schools, libraries and the NHS for starters. Many people are being driven into poverty, disabled people are taking a particularly hard hit with the cutbacks in services. There are many people out there who have had their benefits cut and are not in a position to find work, they are having to fight the system just to try and survive. You can be ideological all you like but this is the reality for many people out there. Furthermore, people are finding it challenging to find work, due to the numbers in the job market. Deaf people are probably being discriminated against all the more, due to numbers and people know how to play the Equality Act. My point is: this mainstream reality.

In Wales we have been fortunate to further strengthen language rights, the Welsh Government passed the Welsh Language Measure 2011. It was able to do this as a devolved government and the primary legislation was already there, the Welsh Language Act 1993; Welsh is an established recognised language and it is geographically linked. We do not have these advantages for BSL, at least yet.

Given all the above, this is me being pragmatic (practical) about what can done right now. The UK has ratified the UNCRPD in June 2009. Whilst most of the UNCRPD is applicable to deaf people, there are some very specific Articles which make express reference to sign language:

Article 2 - Definitions
"For the purposes of the present Convention: ... "Language" includes spoken and signed languages and other forms of non spoken languages;

Article 9 - Accessibility
"2. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures:
e) To provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public;"

Article 21 - Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information
"States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through all forms of communication of their choice, as defined in article 2 of the present Convention, including by:
b) Accepting and facilitating the use of sign languages, Braille, augmentative and alternative communication, and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice by persons with disabilities in official interactions;"

Article 24 - Education
"3. States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:
b) Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;"

Article 30 - Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport

"4. Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture."

The language above is broad. How it can be interpreted by one person, does not necessarily the same for another. So a government person could read any of the above and say, "Hey, we meet those!" and a citizen could come to a very different conclusion. Take Article 24 which relates to education. Here the government could say it complies because we have law around non discrimination in education, we have deaf schools, in the classroom we have Learning Support Assistants. I can guarantee every single Deaf person out there would reach a very different conclusion to that, based on their experiences.

The government has to write a report to the UN every three years, to show compliance. As we saw in the previous paragraph, interpretation can be subjective. What about accountability to the people who it really matters? This is where something called parallel reporting comes in. A parallel report is a report that is submitted along with (parallel) any report from the government by organisations of disabled (deaf) people. This promotes accountability. Note: the UN needs as few parallel reports as possible, otherwise things get very muddled. The point is you feed into an organisation OF and they act as a respondent agent.

The last time all this happened was in June 2011, so the next chance to do this is likely to be June 2014 - just over a year from now. That gives people a chance to collate all those stories (they are examples) of how the system is not working. When you have done that, to use them as examples to apply to the above Articles (plus others, that don't make specific reference to sign language but still apply). Within this, those examples should serve as to why the Equality Act is not working, the shortcomings of education and so forth. From that, this can act as justification that the current system is not enough. Why we badly need a BSL Act. You have to look at the UNCRPD as your clout to get the BSL Act, thus the need to jump through the hoops to play the system's game. To do this, you MUST engage in parallel reporting.

It should be noted, the next parallel reports from organisations of disabled people (if they are in touch with reality) are probably going to focus on poverty and basic rights. The reality is, people are suggesting disabled people are dying out there as a result of current government cuts. So the right of life is probably going to overshadow anything else. However, sign language is very clearly included in the UNCRPD so it should have some attention. People need to put a very strong and clear case forward.

For those of you who are interested, the current country reports are here. These reports then go before a UN committee, which examines compliance. The next session of this committee happens to be July 2013. Whether it works or not, depends on your perspective of international law and politics (no doubt WFD in particular will have its own view). Governments do have to maintain face on the international stage, however, how much they do this is open for debate. I am not going to analyse that any further here, as I want to keep this post focused on a possible mechanism to use in a time when it is very difficult to get anything.

Side note: I do not make the above suggestions lightly and I am not traditionally one for compromise when it comes to campaigning for rights. For those of you who do not know me well, I led on policy for FDP from Autumn 1999 until 2002 Up until 2000, FDP was campaigning for BSL recognition under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. I pushed for a shift in tactics because the ECRML comes under the Council of Europe (not the same as the European Union) and subject to the relationship of international law. Secondly, I come from a first language Welsh speaking family and I also remember the protests around language rights growing up.

For me, a BSL Act was a natural course that we should go down, which is why I spent so much time in 2000 researching legal foundations. I spent many hours at the weekend at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth (I was working full time in London), researching the legal framework for Welsh. I was very grateful for Doug's vision and guidance, people can say whatever they like about him but you cannot fault him on his vision. He was very clear about the separation of language issues from disability, a Home Office route, plus the practicalities such as BSL recognition is not about interpreters. I wrote FDP's submission to the DRC in 2000 (including in the US, when I was supposed to be spending time with my family). FDP was the only organisation that called for a BSL Act in the face of everyone else arguing for something much weaker. I get it re campaigning for a BSL Act, I witnessed many people around me including my friends give all they had and take to the streets.

So my suggestion around the UNCRPD is not made lightheartedly. Campaigning under any government is hard work, nevermind one hellbent on austerity. I could be wrong, whatever way, I hope people succeed and build on the shoulders of those before you.

To a new generation of activists: I am particularly pleased native BSL users are leading a campaign, it is about ownership. Hang onto that passion, it is important. However, this game is a long one, people are going to burn out (many of us have been there, got the t-shirt) and when you've banged your head against that brick wall for the umpteenth time for an issue you believe strongly in, it drains you. There is plenty of knowledge out there, tap into it - it can only empower you. You might end up in a battle with organisations, ultimately they need funding to survive and this is not necessarily mean the protection of BSL in law. (It happened nationally in 2003 plus the funding in Wales). Yes you need funding to enforce rights but it should not be project driven. If there is money involved, there will be many people like a bull in a china shop after it. You'll just be standing outside watching it, people will not even acknowledge you whilst charging in. At that point the all nighters you pulled, the money spent out of your own pocket, the family holidays you sacrified, the fact you might have got arrested, the amount your backside froze whilst sitting on a wet road - no-one will remember it. You might not even recognise these organisations or what became of your campaign. Be prepared for that.

To deaf organisations: you really need to start listening ground up (not repeating history), respect activists and get away from the suit bubble otherwise your campaign is never going to be community owned. Anything else starts to resemble a circus and amounts to plastic activists. And can ordinary people have rights and protection, please? Ultimately it is good you are able to return to this and finish the job off.

To everyone: there were many people out there who were instrumental to previous campaigning, listen to them and learn from their experience. Not everyone will have the same narrative but each person carries wisdom. Otherwise it is going to be a case of re-inventing the wheel and repeating mistakes. That's where I'm coming from, take it or leave it as you will.

Facebook: Spit the Dummy Group
BDA Livestreaming, BSL Recognition the Way Ahead
House of Commons Early Day Motion 1167: 10th Anniversary of Recognition of British Sign Language
BDA: Get your MP to sign EDM 1167 to support BSL users
Deaf Heritage - Jen Dodds - FDP Campaign for BSL Recognition
TigerDeafie: Ten years on: from BSL recogition to ‘Spit the Dummy’
BSL ‘recognition’ – ten years on

March 18, 2013

BSL Recognition Timeline: A Work in Progress

I pulled this BSL recognition timeline together some years ago. If there's anything missing that should be added, please say something and I will add it.

16th Century – ‘Survey of Cornwall’
1644 – John Bulwer, 'Chirologia'
1878 – International Congress, Paris
1880 – International Congress, Milan
1975 - Term British Sign Language coined by Dr. Mary Brennan, Moray House in a seminal paper, "Can Deaf Children Acquire Language"
1970s - NUD campaigns [someone needs to assist here, before my time]
1982 – BDA’s Deaf Awareness Week – Manifesto
May 1987 – Public Statement, by BDA
19 October 1987 – Press Release from BDA
26 October 1987 – BDA Press Conference, held at the House of Commons
26 October 1987 – launch of BDA Report “BSL: Britain’s Fourth Language”
1992 – Publication of Dictionary of BSL/English
Exact date unknown – BDA Sign Language Policy Statement
June 1999 – FDP BSL March, London (national)
3 August 1999 – Margaret Hodge writes to FDP
19 October 1999 – A Statement of Opinion, National Assembly for Wales
6 December 1999 – Margaret Hodge writes to FDP
16 February 2000 – Scottish Parliament debates BSL Recognition
1 April 2000 – Tom Levitt MP introduced an adjournment debate
May 2000 – Government DRC to make recommendations.
18 May 2000 – UKCoD meeting Bert Massie asks for recommendations
20 May 2000 – Nottingham FDP organise BSL march in Nottingham
10 June 2000 – Local FDP BSL March in Birmingham
8 July 2000 – FDP BSL March, London (national)
12 July 2000 – UKCoD Meeting to discuss BSL Recognition Submission
1 September 2000 – UKCoD submission to DRC
4 October 2000 – RNID submission to the DRC
October 2000 – UKCoD Bulletin "Recognition of BSL”
7 October 2000 – Bradford BSL March
12 October 2000 – Signworks Launch: Tom Levitt touches on BSL Recognition
14 October 2000 - Bristol BSL March and Recognition
14 October 2000 - RNID Celebrity Chat Show, James Strachan’s Wish List
23 October 2000 – EU: regard sign language as artificial
31 October 2000 – DRC advises the government, and makes recommendations
8-14 January 2001 - The Big Issue article, 'Let Your Fingers Do the Talking'
13 January 2001 – Lancashire FDP BSL March
24 January 2001 – MP wins Euro wide backing for Sign languages
February 2001 – UKCoD Bulletin: to report the BSL Recognition document
24 March 2001 – Manchester BSL March
7 April 2001 – Wolverhampton FDP BSL March
7 April 2001 - Arrrest of six people at Wolverhampton following a road block
21 April 2001 – Brighton BSL March
21 April 2001 - DLF protest after the march (road block)
23 May 2001 – Wolves Six: Magistrates Court, Wolverhampton
8 July 2001 – FDP BSL March, London (national)
7 August 2001 – DRC writes to Maria Eagle, Minister for Disabled People
13 October 2001 – Cornwall BSL March
13 October 2001 – Newcastle Upon Tyne BSL March
2 November 2001 – House of Lords: British Sign Langauge
5 December 2001 – Scottish Parliament: European Year of Languages (BSL)
December 2001 – Maria Eagle asks for a meeting Deaf organisations
31 January 2002 – Representatives meet Maria Eagle
October 2002 – BDA launches campaign for BSL recognition by local authorities
November 2002 – Malcolm Bruce appointed Raporteur to the Council of Europe
16 December 2002 - London Borough of Lambeth recognises BSL
19 December 2002 – MEP amendment adding sign language to e-learning
2003 – Scottish Parliament: Report on Scottish Languages
14 January 2003 – Birmingham City Council recognises BSL
February 2003 – DRC produced its draft guidance on BSL/English Interpreting
13 February 2003 – Welsh Assembly, Equal Opportunity Committee: BSL
20 February 2003 – Scottish Parliament: Education/Cultural Policy Minority Languages
18 March 2003 - Government recognition and £1m for British Sign Language
24 March 2003 – House of Commons, British Sign Language Motion
1 April 2003 – Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
9 May 2003 - BDA Conference: Charter for BSL - towards BSL recognition
8 July 2003 – FDP BSL March, London (national)
4 October 2003 – Bradford BSL March
10 October 2003 – “Deaf pupils win signing assistance for Sats”
6 November 2003 – DWP: Invitiation to bid for the £1 million
10 December 2003 - DWP BSL Information Day [on the funding]
20 January 2004 - Deadline for submission of bids to the DWP
4 May 2004 - DWP announcement for allocation of £1.5 million

Note: I have obviously not included any additional information above, including who did what, any comprehensive list of publications, the policy directions for various organisations including FDP, DLF, regional marches, BDA, UKCoD and the RNID. Or indeed my personal perspective from that time. It is outside the scope of this blog post.

Who got the £1.5 million BSL Recognition funding?

So today supposedly ten years since BSL was "recognised". I have a lot of thoughts which I am not going to detail here. However, I keep getting asked who got the £1.5 million BSL recognition funding, following the government's announcement in 2003. I have this information in my own archives and notes but part of this is also archived online here.

Initially only £1 million was allocated but this was increased to £1.5 million following the bids. The announcement who got the funding came on the 4 May 2004. The money was awarded to:

British Deaf Association
Centre for Deaf People Leicester
Centre for Deaf Studies - University of Bristol
Christian Deaf Link
Consortium of Assessment and Training Providers
Leeds University
National Deaf Children's Society
UK Council on Deafness Consortium

The members of UKCoD's consortium were:

Birmingham Institute for the Deaf
Cambridgeshire Deaf Association
Cumbria Deaf Association
Deaf Direct
Hampshire Deaf Association
Leicestershire Centre for Deaf People
Norfolk Deaf Association
North Wales Deaf Association
Nottinghamshire Deaf Society
Royal Association for Deaf People
Sense (The National Deafblind and Rubella Association)
Sign .. The National Society for Mental Health and Deafness
Suffolk Deaf Association

And Alex Maxwell (DWP) stated at the time, following a FOI request:

A total of 26 compliant bids were received. The 16 compliant bids which did not receive funding were from the following organisations: Small Heath Community Forum Ltd (Deaf Asian Group); British Deaf Association (submitted one bid which received funding); Council for Advancement for Communication with Deaf People; English Federation of Disability Sport Operating Company; Deafax; Harrow Association of Disabled People; Heriot-Watt University; Hertfordshire Business Centre Services Ltd; Jackson & Jackson; Living Options Devon; Mouzer Associates Ltd; The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (two bids); SignPost at Tyne Tees Television; The Sussex Deaf Association (The Sussex Diocesan Association for the Deaf); West Norfolk Deaf Association.

So there you have it.

January 18, 2012

What do Deaf people spend their DLA on?

If you're in the UK, much of the news is currently dominated by the abolition of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replacing this with Personal Independence Payment (PIP). I am going to assume people reading this basically know what DLA is, and a little bit about the proposed changes (otherwise this post is going to be too long). For this reason, the rest of this post is aimed at people living in the UK.

In this post, I will focus on why do Deaf people claim DLA? Exactly what is the additional expense? Over the years, I've seen much commentary from Deaf people should use it to pay for interpreters only, to it is bribe money and it is not a rights based benefit. And so the long list goes on. More to challenge this below.

What does the law say?

The enabling Act for DLA is the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. The relevant part for DLA is s.72.


he requires in connection with his bodily functions attention from another person for a significant portion of the day (whether during a single period or a number of periods

This would entitle you to get lower rate of DLA.


frequent attention throughout the day in connection with his bodily functions

Which entitles someone to claim middle rate DLA.

The difference between the two rates, being the frequency of attention which needs to relate to body functions. How you get that attention, is part and package of someone's independence. No one size fits all.

That is the law, there is nothing in the above legislation to say that DLA needs to be spent on interpreters. Parliament has not prescribed anything as to how this money should be spent. The confusion starts around Cockburn v. Chief Adjudication Officer and Another and Secretary of State for Social Services v. Fairey (1997) which talks about interpreters. Unfortuntely, those less versed in law take this to mean it is the parameters of what DLA is rather than proving a specific point of law and circumstances that was before the court.

What is attention? And more to the point, what is additional expense arising out of attention?

Here I'm going to write about myself, because it is easier. I claim DLA and I also live in a rural area. Where I live, if a hearing person wants to socialise - you know maintain their basic wellbeing, they walk to the local pub. Within 5-10 minutes you have a choice of eleven pubs, five sports clubs. Or they go to church (churches in this area provide community functions). Or join a local society. Or they take a class at the local sports centre. Or chat to locals on the street. Total cost = usually 0p, just walk there and more importantly interact with others.

Not a single person in my town (apart from me) is able to use BSL. Which means I cannot access anything. Zilch, nadda. Services providing social orientated activities is so small, that it falls outside the scope of legislation of being "reasonable" to make adjustments in respect of communication support.

The nearest interpreter to me - who is able to deal with Welsh place names amongst other things, is a 150 mile round trip. And not doable via public transport. In other words, transport costs which are astronomical on any interpreting bill.

The last social accessible function in my county was in October 2010, and a sixty mile round trip. The only social event before that which I am aware of being accessible, was in 1997, i.e. fifteen years ago and thirty miles of travelling.

Theatre wise, there has been TWO accessible performances 'local' to me in Wales, IN MY ENTIRE LIFETIME. One was last month (which was actually in England but only 100 miles!), the other was two years ago (sixty miles).

There is a deaf and hard of hearing club in town - meets once a month. It is based in an old people's home and everyone there is something like between the ages of eighty and one hundred and something. They are newly hard of hearing, and are interested in learning how to lipread. I've only been once, they ran a lipreading class. Nothing wrong with that but apart from being polite, I do not have anything in common.

Deaf club. Nearest one to me is (was?) fifty miles away. Once a month. Got there, OAPs sitting round the room drinking tea, speaking. Deaf people - there were three. They watched television. One hundred mile round trip to watch tv, no thanks.

The underlying theme here is isolation. To combat this I need to travel. Some people might say, free! Deaf people get free transport, what are you complaining about? For me to get to say, Cardiff on the bus it would take me four hours and twenty five minutes. One way. If you get the first bus of the day, you arrive in Cardiff at 1210. The last bus from Cardiff leaves at 1255 - leaving you with a whooping 45 minutes in Cardiff. Public transport wise, the only viable option is you stay overnight, and necessitates a stay in Cardiff (costs money).

If I got a train (cost £40+), I live ten miles from the nearest train station (obviously I need transport to get to/from). The journey time then takes between five and six hours one way. The latest time you can leave Cardiff using public transport (to get home) is 1430. Yes that's right, half past two in the afternoon.

The buses to everywhere finish at around 5.30pm and run every two hours. Not viable if you need to be there for say, 6.30pm. There are some parts where I live, the buses run once a week.

So free public transport is not a viable solution, and there is a need to pay to get somewhere (and usually by car, as bad as it is environment wise).

For a service to come under the Equality Act and to provide access for me, they need to be big enough to absorb the cost of paying for an interpreter. In legal speak, for the cost to be 'reasonable'. This means I've approached bigger service providers outside my immediate area. Not because it necessarily is my first choice of place to attend, rather it is the nearest place where I get the chance to even feel like I'm part of society. When such people have booked and paid for an interpreter, there still leaves the issue of me getting to venue with the interpreter. Travel is not free and DLA is towards paying for interaction others take for granted. Hearing people around me do not have to absorb this additional cost just to gain meaningful interaction with humans.

Deaf people living in rural areas tend to spend money on travel, just to maintain basic wellbeing. Far from the stereotype of boozing it up in Blackpool, it is just basic human contact. And it happens every few months because practicalities can be through the roof.

So DLA allows me some financial independence to manage my own needs. DLA is not perfect, it doesn't solve anything but it is a damn sight more than nothing. And it can mean the difference between existing (or being alive) and having a basic life. There is only so much isolation any human can tolerate. Here I am adapting my behaviour just to maintain some contact that other people readily take for granted. That chat in the street, your local pub, community centre or whatever hearing people do but will not even notice.

DLA is not there specifically to pay for an interpreter. If people want to use it to pay for an interpreter or communication support then good for them. However, there is nothing prescribed in current legislation towards this and each person's attention will be different. The point is autonomy.

On a broader note. Deaf events, e.g. North / South Wales Deaf Golf - could be said to be an example of wellbeing. On a superficial level it might look like DLA is party money. However, the reality is this provides exactly the same function as hearing people going to their nearest golf club (a couple of miles down the road). Deaf people have to travel to achieve the same (petrol, hotel). Socialisation matters as a cornerstone of wellbeing, without which then it just becomes a dent not only in mental health services but more people unable to work (due to mental illness). For the record, I don't play golf.

Another thing I would like to point out here, many people frame Deaf life on the reality of what happens in London. Newsflash: the M25 is not the parameter of the UK. What is the norm in London, is not the reality everywhere. If you live in London it is extremely easy to live in a bubble. This isn't just limited to social activities but extends into employment and training. Within London in part there exists a deaf diaspora and there is somewhat a critical mass, which makes deaf experience perhaps unique. Policy written by deaf organisations can be very skewed because of a London bias, which ultimately hurts those living elsewhere.

If you're still not convinced, here is some questions (from a deaf perspective):

1. If you were a hearing person, might your income be higher? Yes or no.

2. Not had the chance to negotiate the a price for something (car, building work, whatever) because it requires spoken English, and it is easier just to pay up? i.e. you end up paying higher? Yes or no.

3. Missed out on educational opportunties, because of lack of access? Knock on effect for the rest of your life (you know, you can't change those grades, from er, twenty years ago when there was no access). Yes or no.

4. Been ripped off by something or charged higher, but not challenged because communication enters the equation? i.e. you pay more. Yes or no.

5. Travelled somewhere (train perhaps) to meet someone you can communicate easily with? To meet someone who 'gets' you? Or just to get a fix of someone who can use your language? Stayed over somewhere too, the journey isn't doable in one day. Yes or no.

6. Paid a higher broadband tariff because you're online more (maybe need to use BSL)? Yes or no.

7. Missed out on networking / experience opportunities, say the local pub or local society. Knock on effect, you don't get offered an unadvertised job or be the friend of e.g. a local plumber (cheap rates)? Yes or no.

8. Had to drag along a local family member / friend with you, to assist with communication. In the car, this is extra weight in petrol, or paid an additional admission ticket? Yes or no.

9. Your car has broken down and you received a large bill because you didn't hear the engine making a noise? Yes or no.

10. Heating has been playing up for weeks, but you were totally unaware of it? Yes or no.

11. You flooded the entire house, because you left the tap running? Perhaps the ceiling caved in. Yes or no.

12. Checked your written English for a long time afterwards, to check you've not made some obvious mistakes. (When you could have been doing something else constructive, including earning money). Yes or no

13. You spent lots of time campaigning, just to get basic no frills access. You know, please can I have an interpreter, subtitles or please can you provide another means of contact other than the telephone. Also because you've had enough, you've asked your friend/family to help arguing or you might have sought out local advice services. (Who pays for this time?) Yes or no.

14. Some random person keeps insisting on calling you on a voice phone. Maybe you spend a long time tracking this down or trying to stop those calls. Yes or no.

(There's more I can think of but will stop there - people get the picture).

If you're answered yes to any of the above, then there is an obvious economic impact to who you happen to be. I could get into various arguments here around Deaf people as an alternative existence, however, when it comes to standard of living your benchmark is the local society you happen to live in. Whatever way you look at it, DLA is a welfare benefit and is around absorbing the cost of the need for attention. Attention doesn't necessarily mean an interpreter, it can mean going somewhere to get attention to suit you (language and culture or accessibility in non benefit speak).

Any application for DLA would not succeed on the points above, you need to prove attention is frequent throughout the day which relates to a body function. The point I'm trying to illustrate here relates to financial inequality. Deaf people happen to absorb the majority of the economic implications around inaccessibility - no DLA does not financially compensate properly any of the above plus more. The question is, should the government make a contribution? And why is it in society's interests to do so?

This of course is going to change, the government wants to reduce the number of people claiming DLA when this changes to PIP. More about that, perhaps, in another post. Here there is a need to just spell out economic disparity, far too often overlooked and frowned upon.

November 19, 2011

Disability Scroungers

Today the BBC has as its top news item, GPs should 'not sign off long-term sick'.

This is yet another in a long running line up of the BBC (and the rest of the media) attacking certain adults. Which is curious, since last night was BBC Children in Need and the BBC raised money for disabled or sick children. (I am ignoring other arguments here). Except, when the same children reach the age of 18 years - in other words adults - perception changes. Should they need assistance when they become an adult, then they are stereotyped as benefit scroungers.

And no, the government doesn't just not attack adults, try this this petition as a starting point. So whilst you and your mates are busy raising money for children, a lot of it is about subsidising the government's cutting back of services. It shifts the axis from rights towards charity and begging.

So, we have the BBC News twitter feed, retweeting tweets such as:

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud: Current sickness system is 'an incubator for lifelong idleness for far too many people' #sickpay

Meanwhile there are no retweets giving opposing opinion. You make up your mind re biased reporting.

(At this point I cannot understand the BBC and I suspect they are trying to give the impression of being more right wing, due to threats of their own funding - which again leads to questions around free from political bias).

To get onto the point of the the article. It states, "A survey suggested 77% of GPs had admitted they signed people off sick for reasons other than their physical health, the report authors told the BBC." Physical health does not include mental health, and presumably the remainder of those signed off sick have been done so for mental health reasons. If so, then the reporting itself is misleading and implies. The public not familiar with language, might assume the remainder of people are a fraud by a simple lack of inclusion of information.

Stereotyping by the media has already been brought up by the National Union of Journalists, see here for more information.

The next part that raises concern:

If the recommendations are accepted people who are signed off sick would also be put on to Job Seekers' Allowance, instead of Employment Support Allowance, for a period of three months.

Here the government is proposing you to claim JSA when you perhaps might be at your most vulnerable. JSA involves turning up to the job centre each week, signing on, using the phones there, no being eligible for any form of assistance (when you perhaps might need it most).

So let's use an example, a hearing person who has lost all of their hearing overnight. They have never functioned without hearing before, and suddenly they are faced with no communication skills to manage their new situation, they don't know anything about practicalities and emotionally they've been hit by a frieght train. Suicidal thoughts amongst other things, are not uncommon. They cannot function in work, and need time to re-adjust to themselves.

First, such a person is not immediately covered by the Equality Act 2010, as any disability needs to have "lasted or is likely to last for at least twelve months". You haven't established likely yet, simply because you need to undergo tests. So yes, employers at this point could legally discriminate against you because you are not doing your job properly. You've just become deafened remember, thus you've no idea re basic practicalities nevermind anything else.

So lets suppose you have lost your job or can no longer do your job. You would not be eligible for ESA but JSA. You would need to attend the jobcentre regularly, and expected to comply with whatever terms are attached to JSA. With no support. This includes, communication with DWP staff - remember at this point you do not know how to communicate - expected to job hunt. Facilities in Jobcentres include the use of the telephone. So, good luck to the newly deafened person in their first three months figuring out how to do this. And what is more, they are not covered by the Equality Act 2010 to ask for communication support, as the likelihood test for at least twelve months needs establishing. Put more pressure on such a person, and mental health will take a nose dive. That would quite possibly put someone in hospital, and leaving a much bigger issue to solve.

Likewise, say you are newly diagnosed with cancer. Most employers would hopefuly keep you on, except this isn't the real world and discrimination exists (and you would not be covered by law). During the first 3 months, good luck being well enough on chemotherapy etc, to satisfy what is required of you on JSA.

There are several points in there somewhere, including what is National Insurance for? If you take insurance out for anything in life, be it your car, travel or your house - if catastrophe or the unexpected happens then you are insured. The insurer needs to pay up. NI should be no different except it is managed by the government rather than a private company.

My grandparents' generation set up National Insurance, and any history scholar will understand why. Here's an information video from that time (the video subtitles are bad - it is just as inaccessible to me):

There is a lot more I could say, however I am just going to pose a question. Is what the government and media doing okay with you?

August 25, 2011

Glasses that Subtitle

This morning the BBC ran an item on glasses that had the ability to show subtitles, you can see more here.

First, let it be said I am a social networking geek, I dig technology and innovation. Anyone who has followed me online long enough will get I'm a big user of such tech and always an early adopter. So as far as these glasses go, on a surface level they are a form of social software. They enable the social to happen, more than it is currently. It is good that geeks are innovating such tech and that goes without saying.

On a personal level, I probably would only wear such glasses in limited circumstances - anything on my face drives me nuts. I value my eyesight at peripheral vision, a bit more than I can tend to care about the detail of what's going on in front of me. It is that what allows me feel connected to my environment - I need to know what's going on around me, as I do not get by on environmental sound. Balance might have something to do with it too. My dislike of blinkers is a personal choice, others might feel differently. That I have no qualms about.

However, that's where my praise of this whole thing stops right in its tracks. I do not knock technology that works with a person, the departure happens when technology is used as society's excuse for what amounts of lazyitis, intolerance or projection of the need for conformity.

That is what I want to write about, and what I started to kick off about on Twitter this morning. One thing about Twitter, you have to punctuate what you say, it is limited to 140 characters and it becomes much about what you leave out and don't say (sometimes because it is obvious).

So what am I bothered about? First journalism should not be a form of marketing (yes it is nice to have positive stories), but it is important to have a form of critique and balance. Put this in the context of the BBC, and it becomes more pressing.

The BBC interviewed someone from the the Cinema Exhibitors' Association:

Phil Clapp, "The broad range of audiences do not like going to subtitled films. But it also needs to be said that the needs and wants of disabled or hearing impaired customers are as broad and varied as the needs and wants of the general audience.

BBC reporter, "Yes. Like they want to go on a Friday night."

Phil Clapp, "They do want to go on a Friday night that's true but unfortunately the economics of the industry mean that it's too big a financial hit on the industry to be able to provide that at this moment."

BBC reporter, "So can technology come to the rescue?"

(Note: it does not cost anything more to play a subtitled film).

Yes I know how the majority of society wants me to respond to that: cinemas are losing revenue because people don't like subtitles! Here's an alternative solution! So cool, we have new tech! Lets go all dizzy already, and embrace!

Except I didn't.

Instead I read the rationale was presented as: some people are intolerant towards the other, we cannot do much about that intolerance, thus lets provide something where you are least visible. You as a deaf person are a nuisance, and are costing a multi billion pound industry money. This is the point where I probably stopped listening. Once you start selling tech on the basis that I am a second class citizen, in need of hiding away, forget it. I really do not want to know. And yes, I will kick off about it.

You know, I am not an afterthought or a nuisance. I have every right to go to the cinema on a Friday night too, just like every single hearing person out there. No I am not an inconvenience, nor does the world exist solely for the benefit of hearing people. Our planet is the home for not just certain classes of people, it home for the likes of me too. Deaf people form part of society - deal with it. When it comes to equal citizenship, it is not negotiation territory.

Hearing people are not required to wear headphones so the sound doesn't disturb the rest of the audience. The speakers at the cinema are in full swing. Let it be known, the sound of dialogue often bothers me - I don't make sense of it, and the vibrations can be senseless (at least music comes with a beat). However, I put up with it; you know it is called tolerance of the other.

Instead the analogy that entered my head was: put Black people at the back of the bus, they cannot possibly sit somewhere else because it might offend the sensibilities of white people. And oh, we need to do that because we might lose business because if we don't it might drive white people away. Don't worry, you can still ride the bus (or wear glasses), just we need to make sure you are less visible. Let the ruling majority, rule. Ditto, lets have a rule where we restrict when LGBT are allowed to stay at accommodation, because Oh My God! We might offend straight people who cannot possibly allow their tolerance to stretch that far, thus it could put us out of business.

I likened the rationale given behind glasses to segregation, along the lines of hide people away and to do away with visibility.

(And imagine if the BBC ran a story about a piece of tech due to intolerance towards other minority groups, without questioning it. I can bet there would be a bit more noise than just this lone voice is making).

Get this. Open subtitles are words on a screen. I am not the least bit sorry if it annoys the crap out of you. Get used to it. And to run a story on the rationale we are providing tech because intolerance exists, is well into lost the plot territory.

A cinema is certainly a business venture, and exists to make a profit; thus it could be argued that they should meet the needs of the majority and run with that. Perhaps fit in minority groups, when they are less busy and actually drum up a profit that way. However, pure free market economics does not exist; businesses have constraints put on them all the time. Whether it be a smoking ban indoors, health and safety requirements and equality measures that you are not allowed to discriminate. All have potential economic consequences.

I would argue, if subtitles existed as much as ramps, lifts and so forth - we would not even need this conversation. Accessibility becomes the norm, and people become used to (as they get used to say, wearing a seat belt). The more we hide ourselves, the harder it is going to be to argue otherwise. Like: this is your problem, put the glasses on, be invisible and shut up.

Which is the thing that irks me about this subtitles glasses proposal. Not the fact that the technology here can't do good; of course it can and certainly in more rural areas. However intolerance of the other should never be the driving force in pushing for technology. That should be focused on accessibility, by imbracing inclusion (which in this context leads to less segregation) and acceptance for who you are. However, once we go for the intolerance line, we really are not going to get anywhere.

(There is more I could say about this, however I do not want to confuse the main thrust of my objection).

Update: The Rebuttal has written a blog post which continues the theme above.

June 11, 2011

Ahem, a New Logo


Not designed by me. Perhaps a response to a certain deaf organisation who managed to celebrate a major birthday, where d/Deaf people felt they got pissed on and two fingers stuck up at them. Just sayin'.

Update: someone left a message on Facebook, "DELETE THE DEAF!"

May 27, 2011

Art: LIS Not Mime!

Artwork by Ramon Woolfe, in support of LIS and the Italian Deaf Community:

LIS not mime!

If you want to see a bigger version of the above, go here.

Want to create some art? Please do, and lets show the Italians we support them. I will put it here, with full credit.

May 26, 2011

Reflection on 25th May in Rome, by the ANIOS President

This is an English translation by Marco Nardi of reflections of the 25 May 2011 by the ANIOS President, Marcello Cardarelli.

Hi to you all,

The first day of protest has gone by. Yesterday morning (25th May 2011), there were many of us in SS Apostoli square (Rome - Italy), for the first day of remonstrations. An intense day that has emotionally and professionally drained us.

Many italian Deaf people descended on Rome from extreme north, such as Piedmont, and from the far south in Sicily. We were able to witness presentations by representatives of various Associations, Deaf people in general, various authorities in the research field, and Deaf and hearing parents of Deaf children. For those bystanders that did not know anything about this issue, it became clear that all the prejudices towards Sign Language are unfounded and as spoken and sign languages could naturally and harmoniously cohabit the same space without problems.

We had moment of poetry in sign language, sign singing and young Deaf people drumming away in a magnificent way a show demonstration and a celebration. All this has attracted lots of curious members of the public as well as journalists. A great moment was when I caught the mesmerised eyes of the cameramen and interviewer of TG3 (RAI 3 NEWS - Italian National Broadcasting Television channel) when they eventually managed to take all this in. By the way, the recording is going to be broadcasted today at 19.00 (Italian time) rather than 14.00 as the director liked the full item, rather than the edited version for the earlier edition.

[...] During the morning, in the square, two of the members of the XII Commission for the Social Affairs have joined us, the mover of the original motion, Hon. Gero Grassi (MP), and the Hon. Luciana Pedoto (MP), they both have on side reiterated their support and commitment for the recognition of Sign language and the aim of not allowing any amendment to the proposed text (avoiding any extravagant proposals - LMG or Communication Technique - to replace Italian Sign Language). However on the other hand, they have reflected on the current situation in the commission debate: a number of other members raised the incompatibility of the DDL with the article 6 of the Italian Constitution (regarding the minority languages).

[Art. 6 La Repubblica tutela con apposite norme le minoranze linguistiche. - Art 6 The Republic safeguard the linguistic minorities with specific norms.]

If this is the case, the amended version will have to go back to the Senate for the final approval. The MPs did not necessarily speak to the public but gave their best wishes to the event and communicated with all those authorities (us included) surrounding the stage. Lets see if this is exactly the case. It is clear that in the next week there will be another round of hearings with the commission.

The Hon. Oreste Rossi (Member of the European Parliament - MEP) has updated us about the fact that the European Parliament has recently added, in the guidelines for the next ten years, the recognition of sign languages in the various member states, this new attempt will make more difficult for these countries not to comply with it, even though it might still be possible.

[In the original message the next paragraph is a series of thanks to all that have contributed to the success of the day and to all Deaf and hearing people around Europe and the world that have participated in many different ways and in particular to those that have gathered at the various Italian Embassies making their remonstrations heard.]

But it does not finish here, today (26th May and tomorrow (27th May) there will be more protesting at the front entrance to the Italian Parliament.

Marcello Cardarelli
President of ANIOS
Translation Marco Nardi

More clips on the following website:

With thanks to John Walker.

Round Up of Deaf Organisation Support for the Italian Deaf Community

Here's a round up of deaf organisation support:

European Union of the Deaf Youth

European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters
Letter of Support - in Italian [PDF]. And with Google Translate.

World Federation of the Deaf:
WFD expressed its support for the recognition of the Italian sign language

And their letter can be found here [PDF].

World Association of Sign Language Interpreters
Letter of support in Italian [PDF] and Google Translate.

European Union of the Deaf
Letter from the EUD signed by 29 member countries

EUD letter. EUD President Berglind Stefansdottir & Board Member Humberto Insolera officially handed the EUD support letter signed by delegates from 29 EUD member countries to Sebastiano Manciagli, the board member of the Italian Association of the Deaf.

Austrian Deaf Association, Austria:
Letter to the Italian ambassador

British Deaf Association, United Kingdom:
BDA supports recognition of Italian Sign Language (LIS)

Canadian Association of the Deaf
Letter Doug Momotiuk, President CAD and the same letter in French.

The Canadian Association of the Deaf (CAD) strongly supports the recognition of the Italian Sign Language.

Irish Deaf Society, Ireland:
Press Release from the Irish Deaf Society: Vigil at the Italian Embassy, Dublin

German Deaf Association (Deutscher Gehoerlosen-Bund e.V. or DGB)

Letter in support of LIS, in English and a translation in German.

National Association of the Deaf, USA
NAD supports recognition of Italian Sign Language (LIS)

Did I miss an organisation out? Let me know - I will add them. Your national deaf organisation not on this list? Nag them, and ask them to put it online. Ultimately this is an international issue, and Italy has asked the world for support.

Protest Round Up on Wednesday 25 May 2011 (& Thurs 26 May)

This is a round up of the coverage (I know about), for the protests on Wednesday 25 May 2011, in support of the Italian Deaf community in their quest for recognition of LIS. Before the jump, this rallying of support - it is a privilege to be part of such a community. Watching the videos, looking at the photos and commentary; I know I'm not the only one who's proud of you all.

London, England

Deaf Protest for Italian Sign Language - Part 1 (video on Sign-Tube)
Deaf Protest for Italian Sign Language - Part 2 (video on Sign-Tube)

A comment from John:

We had a great day today. We were opposite the Italian Embassy from 12noon until 3pm and signed 'LIS YES, LMG NO', with a few drums and rackets to make some noise. Stefania Bella and Marco Nardi, our resident Italians, went to the back gate to hand in the petition and the police were already there to push them out. Luckily two Embassy staff came in and claimed 'they knew all about it'; they were willing to take the petition to the appropriate office. Thanks to Ramas Rentelis and Alison Bryan for their help. We were also filmed by the Hub and See Hear - we should see something on the TV soon.

Hats off to: Stefania Bella, Marco Nardi and Ramas Rentelis and everyone else who protested.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

LIS Protest at the front of City Hall, Belfast (video by Paul Stewart, on Facebook)

Belfast collected an additional 244 paper signatures, from people on the street. And also got the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Pat Convery to sign the petition!

Hats off to: Lina Cankas, Jamie Rea, Danny Rea, Richard Beattie and that blue eyed fella from Dublin (sorry Lina doesn't remember his full name) , Colette McMahon, Paul Stewart, Rory Mcgee, Éamon James McCaffrey, Bernadette McCaffrey & their wee sweet son, Adam McCormick, Holy Lane, Bar.

Dublin, Ireland

John Bosco Conama at the Italian Embassy in Dublin, "Newsflash ambassador refused to take in letter and petition even after opening them. We re angry and still waiting for an answer!"

Photos by Elizabeth Fitzgerald: Protest for Deaf Italian Community @ Italian Embassy (on Facebook)
Kevin G Mulqueen: Vigil Protesting at Italian Embassy (video on Facebook)
John Bosco Conama: Vigil outside the Italian Embassy, Dublin (video on Facebook)
Elizabeth Fitzgerald: Protest for Deaf Italian Community @ Italian Embassy, Dublin (Facebook)

Hats off to: John Bosco Conama, Irish Deaf Society and everyone who protested.

Berlin, Germany

Hats off to: Ace Seyed-Ali, Rita Mazza and everyone else who protested.

Madrid, Spain

Hats off to: Belén Navas and everyone else who protested.

Washington DC, USA

LIS Protest at the Embassy of ItalyM (photos by Jean Boutcher, on Facebook)

The source of this information is from Robert Mason (on Facebook), which I've edited a bit to suit here (the substance remains the same):

30+ people showed up and made their presence along with a later suprise visit from the NAD CEO Howard Rosenblum; and Chief Operating Officer, Shane Feldman.

One Deaf Italian Gal, Gallaudet student, DODA shared her deep knowledge of what was going on with the Italian legislative process and IMG. She explained that the IMG was on the Italian law books for years until the younger generation demanded that the current law to be formally recognized as the Italian Sign Language, not the Mime and Gesture.

Jason Lamberton, the Yaon (French) and Matt Malzuhun had a conversation with the Consul Attache. The Consular Attache said that Rome did get the messages from DC and other places.

Howard (NAD) told the protestors that the NAD was all behind the international protest.

Hats off to: Jason Lamberton and his co-host Yoan and everyone who protested at Washington DC.

San Francisco, USA Deaf Protest at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco

Hats off to: Ella Mae Lentz and everyone who showed up in SF yesterday.

Boston, USA

Boston was closed at noon yesterday, but they are supposed to be going today.

The Plan to Petition the Decision on LIS (video by John Pirone).

Video of the protest at the Italian Consulate, Boston

Hats off to: John Pirone and everyone else involved in Massachusetts

Rochester, NY, USA

A staff person was met at the Consulate. More on this later - Patti Durr is going to try and put together her experience later. (If she does, I'll link here - check back)

Hats off to: Patti Durr

Osaka, Japan

Informal meeting with the official representatives at the General Consulate of Italy; in Osaka, Japan.

Hats off to: Emilio Insolera, Hirota Yoshiharu, Danny Gong, Yasunori Shimamoto.


I assume this protest was at the Italian Embassy in Buenos Aires.

Hats off to: Argentinian protestors!


The centre of it all.

Various links

News summary in LIS from TG3 (Italian TV). The campaign for LIS is 3 minutes in.

Hats off to: the Italian Deaf Community! We're right behind you.

Do you know any more? That's what the comment box is for.

Comments from John Walker on the Situation in Italy

This is some commentary from John Walker on what's happening in Italy (his partner is Italian):

I had a conversation with a friend in Italy, the motives for LMG is a little more sinister. Members of the upper house were influenced by the organisation representing parents of deaf children and the equivalent to the national health service. They are nervous that money will be diverted from their budgets in order to pay for this decree (it is not equivalent to the 'recognition' we have in the UK, there is money attached to this decree). Their strategy is to replace LIS with LMG.

The key emphasis that is at play here is the letter 'L' in the acronyms:
Lingua (as in LIS) - a language;
Linguaggio (as in LMG) - a pan term to describe all forms of communication including flowers, bees, morse code, gestures, signs, languages etc. I am not sure if we have a direct equivalence in English.

Furthermore, LMG is what signed language was called many years ago as the word 'sign' in Italy did not come close to what we know of signed languages today - it was nearer to display signs. It wasn't until CNR researched the semiotic features of signed language in Italy that the
word of 'signs' came into the dictionary. So the upper house are using an 'old' term for something that is lower classed, vague and without full clarity that the language of deaf people in Italy is a bona fide language.

The change for LMG will lower and water down the original decree.

This explanation shouldn't be misconstrued with 'Sim-Com', as this is not what LMG is. The distinction is closer is the difference between American Sign Language and 'America Visual Communication' - the difference loses the political dimension of a language that represents
a community in Italy.

For those who were asking about the text on the Italian Parliament website, appearing to support LIS:

... there is no actual source to the LMG proposition as it was received as part of a consultation exercise. The report from the consultation hasn't been published yet because the process hasn't finished. It just needs a line to say "any other descriptions of LIS that fall short of a language, eg. LMG, should not be considered.

On the morning of Wednesday 25 May 2011, I got:

Some news from Italy.

They have had some meetings yesterday - I am aware that ANIOS (association of sign language interpreters in Italy) have had their meeting. They were very professional about. The response wasn't as good as they hoped. Their political support were not showing signs of enthusiasm for the decree. FIADDA, NDCS equivalent in Italy, were throwing lots of wild Milan-1880-type comments. Unfortunately it has left seeds of doubt in the MPs' minds, when they are already nervous about their tight budgets. It is doubtful that the decree will go through as it stands and the lower house will dig in their heels.

This news makes the work we are doing even more important to tell the Italian Government that we mean business. Especially as they have more meetings today. ENS (Italian Deaf Association) has their own meeting at some point, not sure when.

And more information from John last night:

The original decree (DDL) has been passed through the Senate and how now returned to the House of Parliament for its first round of consultation. The first people to be consulted were those of medical professions and FIADDA, the organisation representing parents of deaf children. It was here where LMG was raised. The motives for the change is not explicit but we are aware that there are concerns over two issues: the cost of a language law and political pressures from families (Italy has a cultural relationship with 'la familiglia'). FIADDA, in particular, has no interest in signed languages or bilingual education, they advocate only the pure oral method and the normalisation of deaf children. The shift to LMG is politically motivated in order to water down the original decree.

The emphasis for you is the potential impact LMG on the political status of signed languages throughout the world. If we were to reach a situation where LMG was accepted as law, it would create a precedence for other Governments to follow suit. This is the reason for the proactive stance on LMG.

See also:
Press Release from FIADDA Tuscany
Deaf Londoners Preparing for the Protest at the Italian Embassy
Press Release from the Irish Deaf Society: Vigil at the Italian Embassy, Dublin
Note from Terry Riley, Chair BDA to those Protesting
Press Release from the Belfast Protest in Support of the Italian Deaf Community
Italian Embassy Events on Wednesday 25 May 2011
How You Can Support the Italian Deaf Community
Letter to the Italian Parliament from Dr Steven D. Emery
Protest at the Italian Embassy in London this Wednesday
Letter to the Italian Embassy in Dublin by Dr. John Bosco Conama
Italy might as well say: Deaf People use Monkey Language!
International Petition to Support Italy & UK Protest

Press Release from FIADDA Tuscany

Whilst searching the web last night, I found this FIADDA Toscana onlus (Tuscany) a Press Release [PDF] (in Italian) on why it was encouraging people to say no to LIS. This is what it comes out as if you run it through Google Translate (so keep this in mind, but the spirit of it is there):

FIADDA Tuscany onlus
Italian Families Association for the Defense of the Rights of Deafness
Via delle Porte Nuove, 33 - 50144 Florence
tel. / fax 055-3289950 - SMS 339-2497469

An initiative illogical choice retrograde

On 13 April 2011, the Social Affairs Committee of the House began consideration of the proposal Law of 4207 (and similar), which recognizes the LIS - Italian sign language - as the language for all purposes and promote its use.

It is very difficult to recognize a language if it is not associated to a community, even spread geographically, but it is incomprehensible how one can define a community based on Common physical presence of a deficit!

The bill promotes the acquisition and use of a sign language gesture passed now by the facts, the results obtained thanks to advances in medicine: neonatal screening, prosthesis or cochlear implant (re) enable speech today to allow deaf people to adequately learn the Italian language and to integrate fully into the social life of their country.

The Italian legal system, in particular with the Law 104/92, it is very advanced level world, with assistance and protection in favor of handicapped people, including those who require the LIS as a means of communication. The real problem is putting into effect the provisions of these rules. Our legislation was not in fact still be able to ensure sufficient territorial distribution of services necessary for the treatment of childhood deafness, despite examples of excellence in this field. Therefore many families have been and still are exhausting forced to travel or even relocate to allow for appropriate intervention health and enabled their children, with all the social and economic costs involved.

In this situation the Italian today decided to focus on and invest in the future of a language of date and will disappear naturally, and even encouraging its use imposing it with the coaching of teachers and educators in LIS schools to children from the very first order, that is just at an age where there is a greater need for an important health intervention and speech therapist and then put at risk the results.

It is also difficult to believe that the bill will not impose new or higher costs for finance public: the heterogeneous distribution of deaf people - 0.04% of the Italian population, 90% with hearing parents - on the national territory will require the creation of a large number of "interpreters LIS "or the reopening of the old special school for" deaf ", with obvious consequences in terms of exclusion.

In conclusion, the FIADDA Tuscany is very concerned that after the recognition of LIS there is only one mechanism to maintain functional deaf people in a state of dependency for the mere purpose economic and power. Deaf people should have full rights and, first of all, the integration as a prerequisite for their growth and emancipation.

Florence, April 14, 2011

FIADDA Tuscany (ONLUS) - Headquarters: Via delle Porte Nuove 33-50144 Florence
cod. fisc. 94116150486 - enrolled in the Regional Volunteer with Act No. 1185 of 02/05/2005
FIADDA (ONLUS) - National President: Banner Street, 175-00188 Rome
Tel / fax. 06 45492150 - e-mail:

The main FIADDA website is under construction but there's a bit about them here and pasted below (keep in mind it is outdated - 2005 - but it gives you a flavour of who they are):

FIADDA was founded in 1973 and later spread throughout the Country. Nowadays it can be found in every Italian region.

At a national level it works through a great number of branches sharing common objectives and, at a European level, it is a member Fepeda (Fédération Européenne des Parents d’Enfants Déficients Auditifs) and member of the E.D.F. (European Disability Forum) Board.

Moreover, since July 2000, Fiadda is the seat of the Management and Secretariat of Fepeda.

Since 1986 the Manager of Fiadda, Mrs. Silvana Baroni, is a member of the Permanent Observatory established by means of a Ministry Decree in the framework of the Italian Ministry of Education, for policies concerning the integration of the disabled into mainstream schools.

Since 1990 she also takes part in a Committee set up by the Presidency of the Cabinet at the Ministry for Social Affaires.

In 1994 Fiadda has worked in the framework of the Helios Programme and in the same year it started also the Split programme in the Tide project, regarding the technological research supporting disability, in co-operation with the French association Anpeda and national and European Universities.

Recently, through the Deafnet Project, Fiadda tried to set up a national strategy, supervised by the young deaf, in order to offer new inputs to the association, according to the modern needs.

One thing that really strikes me:
1. They are a parent organisation, thus they will have a deaf child. Parents normally want the best for their children.
2. If the first statement is correct, why are parents rejecting so harshly advice from people THE SAME as their child? To do so, they are also rejecting their child. Perhaps they think that their child, although deaf, is oh so different?!
3. Why do hearing people take it upon themselves to think they know best. Substitute with British history in India, etc. It is called colonalisation, people. Except many are unable to see it, due to whistles, bells and whatnot.

So effectively: Deaf Italians want to own their experience, and want LIS recognised. It is called being political, standing on own two feet and owning your experience. Parents (of deaf children!) come along and kind of start scoulding adults! No you can't have that, sit down and do as you're told. Be a good boy. Ah, paternalism and patronisation at its finest.

To see just how absurd all this is, as a parallel, imagine a parent having a LGBQT child. Instead of being guided by the child and the community around it, it starts on a whole lets take power from you quest. Yep, that's exactly how far behind Deaf rights can be.

I am tweeting about this on @Deaf, follow me there is you want more regular updates. Use the hashtag LISSUBITO if you're joining in the conversation.

And if you've not signed the international petition, you can do so here.

See also:
Deaf Londoners Preparing for the Protest at the Italian Embassy
Press Release from the Irish Deaf Society: Vigil at the Italian Embassy, Dublin
Note from Terry Riley, Chair BDA to those Protesting
Press Release from the Belfast Protest in Support of the Italian Deaf Community
Italian Embassy Events on Wednesday 25 May 2011
How You Can Support the Italian Deaf Community
Letter to the Italian Parliament from Dr Steven D. Emery
Protest at the Italian Embassy in London this Wednesday
Letter to the Italian Embassy in Dublin by Dr. John Bosco Conama
Italy might as well say: Deaf People use Monkey Language!
International Petition to Support Italy & UK Protest

May 24, 2011

Deaf Londoners Preparing for the Protest at the Italian Embassy

Thought you might like to see some Londoners preparing for the protest tomorrow.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

All photo credit: Ramas Rentelis

Hope to see you there? Here are details of the protests / vigil that I know are happening tomorrow (London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Washington DC, Berlin).

If you have not done so already, please sign this international petition. It will be handed into the Embassies tomorrow.

See also:
Press Release from the Irish Deaf Society: Vigil at the Italian Embassy, Dublin
Note from Terry Riley, Chair BDA to those Protesting
Press Release from the Belfast Protest in Support of the Italian Deaf Community
Italian Embassy Events on Wednesday 25 May 2011
How You Can Support the Italian Deaf Community
Letter to the Italian Parliament from Dr Steven D. Emery
Protest at the Italian Embassy in London this Wednesday
Letter to the Italian Embassy in Dublin by Dr. John Bosco Conama
Italy might as well say: Deaf People use Monkey Language!
International Petition to Support Italy & UK Protest

Press Release from the Irish Deaf Society: Vigil at the Italian Embassy, Dublin

A Press Release from the Irish Deaf Society, relating to the vigil at the Italian Embassy in Dublin on 25 May 2005:

At the moment, the Italian government is discussing the enactment of the Italian Sign Language (LIS) bill at the moment. However, a proposal was made to rename the Italian Sign Language as the language of mime and gesture (LMG), in effect reducing and demeaning the status of Italian Sign Language. The Italian Deaf community is horrified by this proposal and wants to protest against this proposal. It has asked the global Deaf community to join the protests. Vigils have been organised in front of Italian embassies in several cities including Belfast, London, Edinburgh, Washington DC and Berlin.

Many Deaf Italian people are rallying in Italy to protest against this proposal. Ms. Elena Radutzky will be speaking in front of the legislature on Tuesday (24 May) and a rally is being organised in Rome on Wednesday, May 25th. About 40,000 people use Irish Sign language
here in Ireland and occurrences such as this one are a serious ramification to our campaign to have Irish Sign Language (ISL) being recognised as a full and official language. So we stand in solidarity with the Italian Deaf community and the global Deaf community.

Below is an extract from Deaf man, Dr. John Bosco Conama’s letter to the Italian ambassador to Ireland:

While if the proposal is carried out by your parliament, it can have wider effects on nations outside Italy. Hence I pen this letter to express my strong concern at this proposal and share concerns with the Italian Deaf community. The proposal is clearly a serious counter to years of research, which confirm that signed languages such as LIS are the genuine languages as spoken languages. The proposal can have unimagined negative effects on the well being of current and future generations of the Italian Deaf community.

The status of the community is frequently determined by the societal and political attitude towards their language. Degrading LIS would bring negative effects on the Italian Deaf community. Should a proposal be adopted, it would be seen as a negative reaction to the
successful conclusion of UN’s convention on rights for disabled people which contains clauses recognising the rights of Deaf people to use their signed languages. (Note: ironically Italy has ratified this convention).

Your country holds an unenviable position where the infamous congress on Deaf education was held in Milan in 1880 and resolutions were passed at this congress calling for the regression of signed languages. These effects of these resolutions are still felt worldwide and this congress is a constant theme in Deaf and cultural studies worldwide. Surely, your country does not want to add on another notoriety to this unenviable position.

Irish Deaf Society
30 Blessington Street,
Dublin 7.

See also:
Note from Terry Riley, Chair BDA to those Protesting
Press Release from the Belfast Protest in Support of the Italian Deaf Community
Italian Embassy Events on Wednesday 25 May 2011
How You Can Support the Italian Deaf Community
Letter to the Italian Parliament from Dr Steven D. Emery
Protest at the Italian Embassy in London this Wednesday
Letter to the Italian Embassy in Dublin by Dr. John Bosco Conama
Italy might as well say: Deaf People use Monkey Language!
International Petition to Support Italy & UK Protest

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