Who is Responsible for Paying BSL Interpreters? – A Deaf Perspective
In the hearing world, especially the business industry, people aim to provide services and products targeted towards a specific market. These specific markets will usually encompass products or services that deaf clients will also want to access. However, often deaf people are unable to access these products or services. For example, events are not always able to provide Sign Language interpreters, and oftentimes companies will offer products not catering towards deaf people, such as DVDs without subtitles.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as signed by the UK Government, came into force in 2008, and the principles stated in this international treaty should be applied to both the public and private sector.
Article 4 of the Convention states that States Parties should “undertake to ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability.” This policy should also be applied by private enterprises, who should seek to implement all appropriate measures in order to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability.
So what does Article 4 of the UN Convention mean? From our perspective, these policies mean that any organisation or private enterprise should seek to immediately resolve any issues that might occur between a deaf client and a business. For instance, if a deaf person requires a BSL interpreter to be provided to allow them access to a product or service, then a company should seek the necessary funding or use their own core funding to provide this interpreter. If there are financial obligations that mean the company cannot afford to offer this service, then they should seek alternative measures to cater towards the deaf client, such as a reduction in the costs of their services or products. Individual circumstances require mediation between the two parties, and so a company should offer clear communication with a deaf client so that they might resolve any issues they face.
Unfortunately, there are companies who refuse to offer these reduced costs for their services or products, as well as refusing to pay for the BSL interpreters required for their services, such as specific events. They expect the deaf client to pay in full without offering either reductions or support. The question is: is this fair?
In Article 9 of the Convention, state parties within the UK have already signed for this article, stating that they will take the appropriate measures to “ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities” (9b), as well as providing “professional sign language interpreters to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public” (9e).
So not only do deaf people have the same basic human rights as everyone else, but they also have the right to freedom of expression and access to information (Article 21). This means that state parties must take all appropriate measures to urge “private entities that provide services to the general public, including through the internet, to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities” (21c) as well as “recognising and promoting the use of sign language” (21e). This article should be applied to all forms of information, be that Internet clips, DVDs and CDs etc.
There are oftentimes when private companies will seek to justify their refusals by saying simply that they cannot afford to implement these measures. In these cases, the companies should seek funding or sponsorship, or support from another organization, in order to be able to provide these products and services to the deaf community.
There are many ways to achieve this, and Femaura are always happy to offer consultation and coaching as to how these measures might be implemented.
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