This week marks 25 years of the inauguration of the UK Disability Act. Is there a cause to celebrate it? ATR was one of the very few (The only one deaf), who attended the launch in Manchester of the campaign for it at Manchester University. I attended via my position as vice-chair of a coalition of a disabled people, the first in S Wales, and the only deaf person ever to join such a disability grouping at that time.
I found the launch a real eye-opener to the deaf world, although I was (and still), profoundly deaf at the time and supported by a disabled friend via note-taking observing the approach to a disability law by deaf was I found at the time, rather poor and the attitude questionable.
Initially, I took my place front row to follow the speeches by various disabled people, I asked someone there 'where do the deaf people sit?' as I wanted to sit next to them, I was expecting text access, of course only BSL was, which the disabled organisers told me they had paid for so the deaf could participate, the BDA and its members being the prime area to include, there being few grassroots attending at all.
As the actual launch began I found myself sitting on my own, I asked the organisers 'where are the deaf?' One disabled man was very angry, he said 'They came and then they went, they registered their attendance and then left the campus to do a tour of the coronation streets set.' Naively I said 'why register if they had no intention to stay?' he replied' I suppose because they are claiming expenses from their charity and needed proof of attendance..'
I was staggered, I said 'who paid for their support?' he said 'We disabled did.' As the meeting had started I sat down, when I was approached by two women, they said 'Are you deaf? do you sign?' I said 'I am deaf yes, but I cannot follow an interpreter I don't really know sign language.' They then asked me if they could sign for me anyway or they won't get paid, so taken aback I said Ok. They said it is important as the media is here that deaf sign language is seen on the platform with disabled. I sat through the speeches and there was some music after as well from Johnny Crescendo a disabled musician. I was the only deaf person in attendance and apparently 'carrying the BSL flag' there!
Afterwards, Clive Mason who was a presenter of the SEE HEAR program approached me and asked would I be interviewed for the program, I said sorry I don't sign and would like to point out I was disappointed at the lack of deaf support there, he then said OK we will interview someone else! I watched the SEE HEAR Coverage later and he found out as I did there were no deaf people there to interview. It's on record he interviewed Johnny Crescendo instead.
Later at home, I was watching 'No Need To Shout' on the TV [which was a text program on the BBC for deaf people], and I read flattering support for the disability launch at Manchester from the BDA. I decided to contact the British Deaf Association to point out they did not actual arrive except to register and then had left again rather cynically doing that to claim expenses whilst they went somewhere else. I was backed up by the 2 BSL interpreters who stated I was telling the truth.
The BDA shrugged it off and I had a letter sent that said 'Well as you know deaf aren't really disabled, just discriminated against.' The fact they had cynically exploited the launch for a 'day out' I found pretty poor really and said so. I said will you ask these deaf to repay the expenses they claimed for non-attendance? he said 'No, We can't prove they weren't there..' I said I was proof so were two hearing BSL interpreters, SEE HEAR, and the disabled committee itself as well as the Coronation Street set could, but to no avail.
To add insult to real disabled injury, the sign user has made the most OF the Disability Act, hypocrisy nowhere near cuts it. As regards to the Act was groundbreaking, it wasn't, it could have been but for the RNID who reneged on the 'teeth' the disabled demanded of the law to capitalise on the support aspect of it, so told the system as they represented the majority with hearing loss a watered-down disability act was acceptable. Then promptly sacked the BSL using CEO, who promptly joined a new disability state-approved group and then was forced out of there too for being disability unaware.
If anyone is in any doubt of the ridiculousness of deaf and their campaigns for equality or dual approaches to inclusion, perhaps they need to read this all again and to understand none of the laws we got afterwards is really working either because the deaf and HoH systems are divided and want different things. One accepts a rule, the other challenges that same rule. Their charities are just chasing the funds. When I read 'Deaf aren't really disabled, deafness isn't a disability.' I just think they just haven't understood theirs... or taking us all for mugs.'
Their attitude to disabled people was tantamount to being openly discriminatory and dismissive.