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Vital COVID information is inaccessible to BSL users

21 December 2020

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of important health information provided by the UK government has not been in BSL. This is a breech of the Equality Act. the government has consistently failed to provide a BSL interpreter, at key briefings throughout the course of the pandemic.

The UK Government claimed that it met its duties, as it provided information online and live subtitles.

However, by not providing information in BSL, the government has left deaf people feeling isolated and confused by the guidance. Most people have had to turn to third party information on social media in order to obtain information.

In a survey of BSL users across England and Wales, 64% of individuals feared for their health because information is inaccessible, 58% said that they look outside of the government for information, and 77% of individuals said that they had found it challenging to find government sponsored information on rules during the pandemic.

Campaigners are asking that the government has a BSL interpreter at all government briefings, in order to ensure a full understanding of the constantly changing rules and regulations relating to coronavirus.

Deaf people have also expressed concerns about obtaining information in the case of emergencies and fear that their lives could be at stake due to inaccessible information.

Despite campaigning by Deaf people’s organizations, little action has been taken by the government. There is currently one channel that provides an on-screen interpreter (BBC News), but there continues to be no live BSL interpreter at government briefings.

There needs to be a commitment from the UK government, to provide information in BSL. Deaf people are being left behind and are experiencing unnecessary fear and confusion.

DR UK Head of Policy, Fazilet Hadi said “The UK  government’s on-going failure to provide BSL at coronavirus broadcasts has been unlawful and utterly mystifying. Providing  accessible information to disabled people is a legal requirement under the Equality Act and  every other government in the UK has managed to do this.”

“With the Disability Strategy soon to be published, it would be a positive step forward to have live BSL interpreting at all 2021 government broadcasts.”