Upon watching Jeff McWhinney’s broadcast about diluted rights for Deaf BSL users under new Equality Act, I had a nose around on the internet for more background readings. Then I’ve come across these paragraphs in the EHRC’s draft Statutory Code of Practice
Example: A group of deaf students travelling together on a train are having animated conversations using British Sign Language. An official of the train company warns them that unless they ‘calm down’ they will be asked to leave the train as their behaviour is disturbing other passengers. The group notice that a similar warning has not been given to a far livelier group of non-deaf teenagers moving about at the other end of the same carriage. Individuals in this other group, whose circumstances relevant to the treatment at issue appear to be the same or not materially different, could be an actual comparator for individuals in the group of deaf students.
Referring to the above example of the deaf students: If the group of ‘far livelier teenagers’ turned out to be a group of young people with ADHD who were supervised by two teachers, the fact of their supervision would be a significant difference in their circumstances compared to those of the deaf students so that individuals in that group would not be actual comparators. However the fact of the difference in treatment of the two groups could help to define a hypothetical comparator group that might be treated more favourably than the deaf students.
Erm……conversation in British Sign Language is animated, which is the point. I am perplexed that EHRC have come up with these examples in these statements. It is not sitting easy with me because, how I see it, it appears to me that it will be lawful to throw a group of deaf people off the train for signing too vigorously. Right?
What was Jeff was saying in his video is that public provisions will see their obligation to provide language interpretation removed, and that British Sign Language will falls under this “language” category and therefore British Sign Language users will potentially lose the rights to access public provisions. Other commentators have muddied the waters by pointing out the other parts of the Act (on a different thread) which have compounded my confusion about this – hence my impetus to seek info from the horse’s mouth elsewhere on gov.uk. I am still not clear on this and what it will definitely means for us as it is not all finalised. But I didn’t like what I have unearthed as above and if there are stuff in the Act that you don’t link, it is not too late to act. The email address for Office of Disability Issues: firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, it is about time to revive this blog as I am paying good money for its hosting! 🙂