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Ofcom fails its own Disability Equality Scheme?

ofcom_logo.gifOfcom is the regulator for the communications industries in the UK. That includes television.

Currently Ofcom has a consultation happening in respect of BSL on television. This is a major consultation, and will affect every BSL user in the UK who accesses television.

The Communications Act 2003 states that after 10 years, 5% of all output on digital channels, needs to be in BSL. (There is separate legal obligations in respect of subtitling). Now Ofcom is "consulting", in respect of the future of BSL on television. Such questions are being asked:

- should programmes be interpreted?
- would it be better to have a BSL channel instead?
- should be have a specific programme for BSL users?


I have many thoughts on this, however there is just one major thought dominating my head and has been for over two weeks.

This consultation is about BSL television, and about how BSL users are going to access television. The entire consultation is ONLY available in English. Why?

Its a bit like publishing a consultation on S4C and only making the consultation available in English and not Welsh. Say you are consulting with French speakers, but do so only in Japanese.

So where is the BSL? By Ofcom's own omission it says:

some deaf people whose first language is signing can find it difficult to understand subtitles, and so use signing to understand television programmes.

Okay, if it acknowledges that, why the hell has it only published the consultation document in English? How can it even pretend to be consulting with BSL users about their service, if the information is not available in BSL?

Instead it is consulting with groups such as the RNID. Since when did they know about BSL users, if they are intent on curing deafness and secondly operate under 100% hearing SMT, and just one Deaf person on its Board of Trustees? So how exactly is that consultation?

Thinking about what law can be used here to give Ofcom a good kick up the rear end and put an end to some institutional discrimination that's happening here, one immediately thinks of the DED.

As a public service provider, Ofcom had to publish a Disability Equality Scheme and theirs can be found here.


In developing policy that may affect disabled people, Ofcom has a duty to engage and consult with this community.

And as part of their action plan, by 2007 they are supposed to:

Review communications networks and services and assess the barriers to access and inclusion, which will include use of services by disabled customers.

Not doing very well so far then.

The whole point of the DED is that the people affected are supposed to be consulted direct, and there is more involvement by disabled and Deaf people. How can it even pretend to be consulting with BSL users, if the consultation document is not available in BSL? What is Ofcom on when it says that BSL users may respond in BSL? Okay, but how are they supposed to access your material in the first place?

What are deaf organisations doing about this, and how come no-one is even kicking up a fuss about it. Everyone asleep?

For Ofcom to pretend that it is consulting, by saying that it has spoken to the RNID makes a mockery of the whole process. It is not an organisation OF Deaf people, therefore doesn't even count as far as consultation goes here.

Is Ofcom is failing its own scheme, and in need of being reported to the Disability Rights Commission?


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Ofcom fails its own Disability Equality Scheme?:

» Ofcom's consultation for signing on television ends today from Grumpy Old Deafies
Just a reminder, Ofcom's consultation in respect of Signing on Television ends today. Some of the responses can be found here. Unfortunately, they all appear to be in English. I wonder if the BSL submissions (if there is any) will... [Read More]

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