The Equality Act 2010

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The Equality Act 2010

It’s been 8 years since the Equality Act became law. But it seems that the interpretation of this law still befuddles some people. This has been highlighted recently in the case of Sally Reynolds and the Little Mix Concert. Sally, is a British Sign Language user and is Deaf. Her daughter isn’t deaf. And her daughter wanted to go to the Little Mix concert. In a nutshell, Sally requested that the concert provide a BSL to English Sign Language Interpreter so that she could have access to the concert. After the concert organisers had refused her request, a court injunction was sought.

This step resulted in Sally being provided with a BSL Interpreter for the Little Mix part of the concert. But not the two warm up acts that came before Little Mix. Subsequently Sally has taken the unprecedented step in issuing legal proceedings against the concert organisers for failure to provide reasonable adjustments.

You can read the BBC report here:

The outcry

There has been much commenting on this case. The Daily Mail comments are full of outrage “Why should the venue provide an interpreter at great expense just for you? You can lip read. Get over it.” and “What a load of cr*p how on earth is an interpreter going to keep up with someone singing,perhaps they also asked for the song to be sung slowly, if it goes to court I hope the mother not only loses and pays all legal costs”, for example.

Read more, if you want to but try not to get too angry:

The response

That little thing called the Equality Act. I know its only been around 8 years. But it clearly states that providers of goods and services must take reasonable adjustments to make sure a person with a disability receive the same services, as far as is possible, to that of a non disabled person. The Equality Act even calls these adjustments “reasonable adjustments” to take into account the organisations size, practicality, the disability. Moreover the Equality Act makes it clear that sometimes purveyors of goods and services need to provide an extra aid or service. This is an auxiliary aid. Guess what a BSL Interpreter is? That’s right! An auxiliary aid.

So, lets just re-cap. Sally bought tickets to a concert, because she is taking her daughter there. She would like to have full access to the concert that she is attending with her daughter. The request for a BSL Interpreter is entirely legal. Because without one she is unable to access the lyrics to the songs. This places her at a disadvantage to other concert go-ers. By only having an Interpreter for the Little Mix part of the concert, this effectively means Sally only has access to 1/3rd of the acts. This again, is not equal to other concert goers and places her at a clear disadvantage. Which the providers already know how to overcome because they have provided an Interpreter for the Little Mix part of the concert.

Responding to the comments

Why should the venue provide an interpreter just for you? – Well, it is the Law (see the Equality Act).

You can Lip-read: Well, only 30% of spoken English is visible on the mouth. Lipreading is a blend of other skills, including knowing the context and topic, so unless Sally knew all of the acts songs off by heart, this would be impossible. In addition, lipreading works well when the person doesn’t move about, if only one person is speaking at anyone time and that the light is in the speakers face. Oh, and you have to be quite close to the speaker too. So, no, lipreading isn’t going to cut it here.

How is an Interpreter going to keep up with a singer: Hmmm, BSL – English Interpreters who undertake performance Interpretation are highly trained to interpret and will put in hours of preparation to ensure they have been able to translate the song from English into British Sign Language. A quick look on Youtube has countless examples of people (some of whom are not qualified BSL – English Interpreters) signing along to songs. And, what a surprise, these songs aren’t slowed down.

The Equality Act and what it means for the wider Deaf community

Taking this issue to court will set a legal precedent. As yet no-one has tested the Equality Act in this area. If Sally wins the case, then it should make it much clearer for people with a sensory need to make their needs known. And for suppliers of good and services to meet the reasonable adjustment. This could mean more audio described plays, additional subtitling at concerts, BSL – English Interpreters being booked.

We should celebrate the courage of Sally Reynolds for taking this step. Rebecca Halliday did  a courageous thing in 1997 (and changed the way DLA was awarded to people who were Deaf as well as people who were Blind). Only by using the law can people hope to redress the innate discrimination that currently abounds.

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