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Government response on BSL & the UN Convention of Human Rights for Disabilities

A petition was created by John Walker on ratifying British Sign Language under the UN Convention of Human Rights for People with Disabilities:

On 30th March 2007, UK signed the Covention of Human Rights for People with Disabilities. This convention states that Deaf and hard of hearing people have a right to: 1. Access through the use of professional sign language interpreters(article 9(2e)). 2. The acceptance and facilitation of the freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information, in British Sign Language(article 21b). 3. The recognition and promotion of the use of British Sign Language(Article 21e). 4. In Education, the facilitation of the learning of British Sign Langauge and the promotion of linguistic identity of the deaf community(article 24(3b)). 5. The employment of teachers who are deaf and qualified in British Sign Language to teach deaf and hard of hearing children(Article 24(4)). 6. The recognition and support of the cultural and linguistic identify of deaf people who use sign language and their deaf culture(Article 30(4)).

These fundamental principles already ratified by the UK Government, can be implemented by the adoption of a 'BSL Bill' (as an addition to the Sign Language Recognition presented by the DWP on 18th March 2003) and be developed at the soonest opportunity.

I have to congratulate John for bringing this issue back into the political process again. Here's the official government response:

Thank you for your e-petition. The aim of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is to enable the 650 million disabled people across the world to access existing human rights. The Convention will set international human rights standards ensuring that disabled people enjoy the same human rights as everyone else. The Government believes this is an important initiative and one that will help shape protection of disabled peoples' rights for the future.

The UK was among the first states to sign up to the Convention on its first day of opening on 30 March this year at the United Nations, New York. Signing the Convention demonstrates the UK's commitment to human rights for disabled people and shows our intention to proceed to ratification without any undue delay.

Currently the UK is scrutinising its laws, policies, practices and procedures carefully against the rights under the Convention before it ratifies the Convention. The Convention will come into force 30 days after at least 20 states have ratified or acceded to it. As of 2 November, seven states have ratified the Convention.

The Convention will not form part of domestic UK law. However Countries that ratify the convention will also have to report regularly to the UN about the steps they are taking to implement the Convention and protect and promote disabled people's human rights.

There are several references in the Convention to sign language which would, if implemented, enable sign language users around the world to communicate and receive information in their first language, including, when appropriate, having professional sign language interpreters to facilitate access to buildings and other facilities open to the public.

The Convention also requires that States take all appropriate measures to ensure that disabled people can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion on an equal basis with others including accepting, facilitating, recognising and promoting the use of sign languages.

The Government has recognised British Sign Language as a language its own right and has invested in projects intended to leave a legacy of improved access to training for British Sign Language tutors and increased awareness of the language.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 imposes a duty of reasonable adjustment for disabled people in a wide range of aspects of life, including access to employment, goods, facilities, and services, private clubs and the functions of public authorities. A reasonable adjustment can include the provision of a British Sign Language/English interpreter for a person who uses British Sign Language as their first or preferred language.

Further information on the Convention can be found on the Office for Disability Issues website: www.officefordisability.gov.uk

Whilst this a good start international law wise (and how does it measure up with the nonsense that is currently going through parliament). The government's response is predicted, and exactly why we need a BSL Act. UK people - we live in something called a monist state. I don't have time to go into an analysis now, there's more urgent campaigning that needs a response this week, i.e. Human Fertilistaion and Embryology Bill. This needs a proper response. Later.

Comments (1)

The Government believes this is an important initiative and one that will help shape protection of disabled peoples' rights for the future.

The UK was among the first states to sign up to the Convention on its first day of opening on 30 March this year at the United Nations, New York. Signing the Convention demonstrates the UK's commitment to human rights for disabled people and shows our intention to proceed to ratification without any undue delay.

On one hand they're committed to equal rights for disabled people and on the other hand they're perfectly willing to take away our human right by denying us the right to use our gene...

Governments can't pick and chose at will whatever side they wish. They have to pick one and stick with it regardless...

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