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Absence of BSL interpreter at coronavirus briefings leaves deaf people ‘misinformed and disempowered’

Boris Johnson the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom coronavirus briefings
Photo: Dreamstime

People with hearing disabilities have said the absence of a sign language interpreter at coronavirus briefings in England leaves the community “isolated” and allows misinformation to spread.

British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters attend briefings in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland but have yet to appear with experts and politicians in England.

The BBC provides a superimposed translator on the BBC News channel during briefings, who also appears on Downing Street’s live Twitter feed.

However, some people with hearing disabilities told the PA news agency they could not readily access these either due to a lack of social media or TV licence, and the interpreter often disappeared when slides were used.

Subtitles can also be used on television, but these regularly include mistakes, and due to language deprivation, many people with hearing disabilities have difficulty reading English.

“It’s definitely frustrating and frightening because we’re not able to access information that could potentially save our lives,” Abigail Gorman, 34, from London.

“We’re constantly having to rely on other people to relay information to us, so that leaves us feeling disempowered.

“The deaf community is being ignored and let down and the Government is in breach of its own Equality Act, UN conventions and WHO guidance.

“ASLI has informed Westminster of this, we put out a call to action in March and various organisations and individuals came together to fight for access, but still nothing has happened.” said ASLI chairman Jill Henshaw.

“The BBC has made their video feed for the BSL interpreter available to all other broadcasters and for use on No 10 social channels,” a spokesman said.

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