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EHRC Human Rights Inquiry 2009: Launch Inaccessible

Today the EHRC launched the Human Rights Inquiry 2009.

Last Friday I got an e mail from the EHRC telling me there would be a webcast this morning:

The event will be broadcast live over the Internet giving you the opportunity to watch the launch of the inquiry's final report. Visit http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/fairer-britain/human-rights/human-rights-inquiry/ from 10:45 on Monday to join the event.

Secondly, @EHRC was reporting the event on Twitter, reminding us to watch the event. I actually wanted to watch this, because its an area I'm interested in. So by 11.15am, when there was no redirect from the earlier link we were given, I asked a question. I got a reply:


Anyway, no guessing for what came next: it was not accessible for deaf people. I even alerted @EHRC to the problem, but I got no reply.

My complaint to EHRC:

I am a deaf person. Today I tried to watch the webcast at: http://www.hereforeveryone.com/

For part of the webcast (when Jack Straw spoke), an interpreter was partly in the frame of the camera. This was not perfect, as the camera was so positioned that some of his signs were off screen, and secondly there was no mechanism to make the video bigger. I was then surprised, the camera angle changed position so the interpreter was completely out of the screen and I could no longer follow. This continued with wide screen shots of the proceedings. It then went back to part interpreter shots, however the angle was then quickly altered. The open floor / Q&A session, I do not see any interpreter or any other means as to how I can access this live webcast.

This is equivilent of turning off the sound for hearing people, as a webcast is broadcasting. Secondly, there was no subtitles or alternative live broadcast for deaf people who do not use BSL. I do not expect a body charged with the promotion of equality to discriminate against certain classes of people. It is rather ironic that a launch to promote human rights, excludes certain classes of people, no?

Please treat this as a formal complaint against the EHRC. Could EHRC tell me if it thinks it is discriminating against me for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and if not, why not.

I shall look forward to hearing from you.

EHRC is so far removed from deaf people its unfunny. Except they cannot see it, because we're on some crusade for mainstreaming equality. Fine in theory, but there lies a central problem with such an approach: to treat everyone the same, is discrimination. Look at any anti discrimination legislation to see this, which is why you get certain schemes such as positive discrimination.

So, if the above is true, how come EHRC streamling of equality is different? Why is suddenly everyone the same from gender right through to disability, on par? Yes I can see its merits, but to also adopt such an approach, means people are starting to fall through the cracks. In fact I don't think deaf people got to the start line. You go to the main EHRC website, and tell me where the BSL is.

There is nothing more I can add, except the webcast is still running as I type this, and still inaccessible. Yep, that's right. I've no idea what the body charged with equality and supposed to be protecting my interests, is saying.

See also:
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

Comments (23)

Well said, Alison.

The EHRC treat deaf and disabled people like dogs tied outside the building - like a footnote that has been reluctantly tacked on.

I don't take the EHRC very seriously as a champion of disabled people's human rights ever since they supported the proposals in the Gregg Review, which drive and reverse a Sherman tank over disabled people's human rights.

They don't even reply to my letters or e-mails in a timely manner.

A quango with jobs for the same old faces.

I'm not often in agreement with you, but even I must concede to this. Only recently we saw the Europeans on about disability rights, the UN going on about it and signing papers like no tomorrow, and each time the deaf have been omitted the basic access to get involved. They are TALKING about TALKING about access, but still not providing any. Little wonder few take Human Rights seriously yet, when it is so selective on who it applies to. If I was Gay or a prisoner of conscience they would be beating a path to my front door, because I am deaf and cannot follow without access, that's OK no bother..... A hierarchy of rights ? 90% of european political output is non-accessible to us, nor at the UN. I don't waste e-mails Tim, I've long learnt nobody reads them....

I suppose that they could simply not have broadcast it live and we could all have read about it at the same time.

"90% of european political output is non-accessible to us"

Are you incapable of reading Hansard or the Eur Lex? Both are unbiased news sources and much preferable to me at least than news agencies

You may find deaf who disagree text is sufficient on its own. Some use sign language I gather, and other have stated problems with English translation. Why should deaf wait for the text version, when hearing already have access to a live version, and the deaf were e-mailed it WAS accessible ? I feel you missed the point entirely on what it is all about. So tell us all about bit................

Well said, MM. This is the EHRC on Human Rights, not the Tory party's political broadcast. It's got that pesky thing known as "equality" in it. As annoying as it might be to people who think that deaf people should not be treated with respect, it means being given equal access to the same information at the same time.

MM, why have you quoted Alison's post on your blog without acknowledging the source with a link?


When you quote, it is correct etiquette to acknowledge yr sources!

Omission of that particular link is because of protocol, grumpy does not include any links to my blog, I don't provide links to theirs, and I only ever link to the Regency blog, in supporting this complaint (An event in itself), I feel I have gone as far as I am able by reproducing the actual complaint. Sorry, no love-in yet.... If GOD wishes me to remove the blog I am willing...

The blog actually states the source.

I stand corrected, however, the fact of the matter is blogging protocol demands that u link to th source should u use, borrow, or quote that material. Whether the source links back, is irrelevant!

The point then is that people can judge for themselves, the veracity of the source material that u used.

Translation to BSL is costly, how can organisations afford it when there's no funding support for BSL access?

There is sympathy with this, however an group established FOR equality and access really has no excuse does it ? Does it NOT provide access for others ? took the affordable option ? so they used a heiracy of access ? putting deaf last ? If they can find money for one sector they have to find it for all THAT is equality ! By choosing who they will or will not provide access for, that, is discrimination, the thing they were set up to fight... and which is now in dissaray, clearly they hope we won't tune in, or turn up....


Let's say my sister sets up a group to campaign for better TV subtitles, are you saying we expect her to cough up the money to pay for all their media materials to be translated into BSL?

My question is: who'll pay for it? My sister isn't rich.

The difference here is the equality board has a distinct claim to campaigning and for providing equal access, and then did not provide it, not only not provide, but failed to respond to those who asked where it was. To date they still haven't I gather.

The equality board is much like the Racial board before, both pay lip service to who they provide access for, in these cases it is for more 'profile' campaigns like ethnics etc, except the Racial Equality board was taken to court itself for refusing women equal rights,and the equality board is more interested in targeting the BNP than deaf provision (Again for media purposes mostly).

The whole set up was a mess, partial sign access provision disappeared part the way through, subtitling access which is the majority form of deaf access was not there at all. It's a moot point regarding subtitles, in part I agree campaigns that push for one form or another are unhelpful. Your sister should push for BOTH, (Perhaps you can lend her a few quid), then again Deaf and deaf won't agree that's their issue (why take it out on me lol :) ).

If you campaign on an equal access platform do not be surprised people will expect you to practice what you preach... and provide it.


Right.... the issue remains that if some money is taken away from website development and/or lobbying, to be spent on BSL translation, then the quality of the website/lobbying goes down - not what we want!

What would be a better solution here?


If it is a straight choice between the site and access, I'd say let the site go down. Deaf requested access to a pertinent debate that was highly relevant to them, they could well have insted on total access to everything, that IS their right, I found the equality people selective on access, that isn't equality as I understand it. Sites are ten a penny, there are many other ways to get a message across, some free. The issue here is deaf have a right of communication access. In this respect as it was video'd media, then there was a choice of 2 options titles or BSL. Had they provided titles less fuss would have been made, instead no titles, and no BSL. They could have been honest and stated they cannot provide access for everyone, they didn't do that. The whole thing was a cock-up really, it has done nothing to encourage deaf to support THIS inequality and quite biased group. They all seem to be run for ethinc and gay benefit these days... with deaf last on the list.

This argument that if money is spent on access it will take money away from lobbying is illogical. It is like saying 'we are going to practise inequality so that we have more money to promote equality' ??


So we have to rely on the goodwill of people? That's clearly not working. So what would be our solution here?

Ben, it's easy to make the mistake of thinking that because things are not working, it's up to us to put forward some sort of solution.

The fact of the matter is that the EHRC (and other organisations) are paid very good salaries for which they are supposed to bring about equality for all people.

If they fail in that responsibility, it's up to them to sort it out, all we can do in point out their failings, like Alison is doing here.

By the way, I agree that we should not have to rely on the goodwill of people - that is the argument against charity in a nutshell and it's a good argument. We need full, equal rights.

This is not goodwill, this is about LEGAL responsibility. The EHRC has a legal responsibility both as a service provider, and it goes up under the DED.

If you look at the langauge of the DDA it does make reference to the type of provider. What is reasonable for one person, might not be for another. The bar goes right up for the EHRC, and probably should have the highest bar of given the nature of what it is supposed to be doing. When you lead, you have to lead by example .... you cannot preach to others unless you practice what you're preaching. Something our beloved RNID might like to go away and think about.

Ben - I don't need to tell you bilingualism exists to varying degrees. There are Deaf people out there who don't have a grasp on English. Have worked with too many such people to be told otherwise. Not that I want to make BSL an issue out of necessity, like Welsh-English its a language of choice.

To argue against BSL in the situation above .... is like arguing for it to be acceptable for the Welsh Langauge Board to just produce its publications in English only. Translation costs.

To get some grip on this, e.g. the BBC World Service costs the taxpayer around £225 million or thereabout.

By comparison, how much are we spending on BSL services in the UK?


Why has Welsh language received so much money? Is this because it's a legal requirement? Is the government regretting this, given the high cost of supporting the language?

You mentioned legal responsibility... I don't understand, are you implying that EHRC is breaking the law?

Yep @ EHRC, have asked them that question. See my e mail above which says, "Could EHRC tell me if it thinks it is discriminating against me for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and if not, why not."

Web accessibility, is covered in the DDA Code of Practice. However, no web accessibility case has been brought in the UK, the only parallel we have is Australia. What is commonly called "the Sydney Olympic case" or to give its official title: Maguire v. SOCOG.

Whilst this case covers web accessbility for blind people (and probably an outdated CoP for disability, its easy to see how the web has evolved within the last decade and is now much more inaccessible towards deaf people.

Australian judgment does not have binding force in the UK, but could have a persuasive effect for anyone bringing legal action in the English courts.

Re: Welsh, yes because its a legal requirement. It goes beyond the Welsh Language Act 1993, and there's various laws that relate to bilingualism in schools, television services (S4C is taxpayer funded), the promotion of Welsh for adult learners, the requirement for all public services to produce "Welsh Language Schemes" and so it goes on. I think it would be difficult to put a price on Welsh use, since it penetrates to so many areas.

Hi Alison ,

I am interested to know whether the EHRC replied to your complaint about the inaccessible launch ?

Yes, but they didn't answer my questions properly, which I take as patronising. And there are parts of the response which I completely fail to understand. E.g.:

"Since the date of our first webcast we have been working to facilitate streaming the signing that is happening at the event. This is an ongoing issue that, as yet, we have been unable to resolve. The issue is not about the technical filming but the agreements that are
in place with the signers who support our events."

fwiw - a contract is a contract, draw up some new terms. Interpreters should NOT have a monopoly when it comes to bargaining. And besides, are we really using the excuse: deaf people can't access this because interpreters are basically being a pain in the arse / stuffed shirts?! However, it still doesn't get away from the fact this event was inaccessible - subtitles anyone?

Full response below:

13th July 2009

Dear Alison,

Subject: Live webcast of Human Rights Inquiry

Thank you for your email sent on 15.06.2009 which was acknowledged on the 17.06.09 in which you raised a number of complaints. I am sorry to learn that you didn’t have a satisfactory experience viewing the webcast and have addressed your concerns below.

We have looked into your complaint and respond as follows:


Absence and disruption of BSL and subtitles from live webcast of Human Rights Inquiry (HRI) Launch.


The Commission undertook its first live webcast in December 2008 and has completed 2 others since that date, including the HRI. Since the date of our first webcast we have been working to facilitate streaming the signing that is happening at the event. This is an ongoing issue that, as yet, we have been unable to resolve. The issue is not about the technical filming but the agreements that are in place with the signers who support our events.

This was the first webcast that was advertised prior to the event and we agree that the email (which was sent to our whole e-bulletin database) should have carried a disclaimer that indicated that the footage would not carry signing of the event or feature live subtitling. For this we apologise and will have regard to it for future events.

With regard to carrying live subtitles, this is not currently a capability that the Commission possess but is one that we are actively investigating in conjunction with the palantypists. This discussion centres upon assurances regarding the replacing of the ‘live’ subtitles with programmed subtitling applied to the footage afterwards.

It is the stated intention that the vast majority of videos produced from this business year onwards will be subtitled and made available in BSL be that either translating into BSL upfront, or translating upon request.

Indeed we are developing a media player that will allow users to choose which version they wish to watch. Given the Commission’s move to use more video footage to communicate its work this will vastly increase the amount of accessible information.

In terms of the specific video footage of the launch event of the Human Rights Inquiry the timetable for the production of the final suite of videos saw subtitled versions in English and Welsh available within ten days of the event and the BSL version will be available as soon as it practicable to do so following the provision of the agreed speeches and transcripts. Please note that there is also BSL version of the Executive Summary available.

On the wider point as part of our Equality Scheme the Communications Directorate has committed the Commission to investigate the broader issue of the provision of BSL in relation to the written content on our site.

We hope we have addressed your complaint.

If however you are dissatisfied with the response and require a review under stage two of our complaints procedure, please let us know, stating your reasons. On receipt I shall arrange for a review to take place by another person who has not been involved in dealing with your initial complaint.

Yours sincerely,
Helen Aspell
Head of Digital Communications

Sent by: Philippa Bullen (Knowledge Officer)

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