The irony within the irony.

On Monday 31st March 2014, the SignHealth‘s #sickofit report was debated in the House of Lords which was televised as well as being live streamed via Parliament TV on-line. Finding out it was being broadcasted, a member of The Tree House took it upon themselves to find out if the broadcast would be subtitled and/or interpreted at least. After all, it was about us? As the disabled community established a few years ago that nothing would be about them, without them.

The vital question that was asked “Will it be subtitled to give deaf people equal access?”

“Ooooo, I don’t know. That would be the best thing to do, wouldn’t it really, considering the subject matter. Give me your number & I will find out & call you back ” was their response. How they could justify having a debate about a minority group that was being broadcasted live and debating inequalities when they themselves fail to make it accessible.

“Subject matter”?! Are we merely subjects for them to debate over while we are subjected to their appalling standard of inequality by not providing subtitles and in-vision signing?

To this day, Parliament TV have failed to give subtitles. Instead they make the extremely lengthy & badly laid out transcripts available after the event. With actions comes consequences.

Members of the deaf community were encouraged to voice their concerns using this email address or via the House of Lords information phone line: 020 7219 3107 

If one experiences problems with Text Relay please email Lorna on with details of the following:
* your deafness (or deafblindness)
* your textphone type e.g. Minicom Pro 7000 etc
* your feedback/concerns.

After our initial emails, we all received an automated response which informed us that it will take them up to 10 working days to respond to us, when the debate was imminent. One reader who thought this was not on and wanted to empower the deaf community took to the phone once again and relatively we took to our keyboards, emailing both & (who is considered the organ grinder by some.)

The more noise  we make, the better.

Samples of emails by members were made ie:

“Dear Sir,

It is with great sadness we will be missing out on the “Sick of it” debate tonight due to our deafness… neither will there be a BSL interpreter or subtitles to meet our accessibility needs on an united and equal basis. After all, the topic is regarding deaf people so it is rather ironic that we cannot even be a part of it.

Please set up some sort of system that will meet all our access needs, be it in vision signer, captions and so on. It’s about us but without us?….We have a voice of our own and we would like to be able to watch these things the same time as everyone else does. It’s appalling that a friend is making all these phone calls sympathising with the deaf community yet when we send an email we are told “10 working days” before we get a response when the debate is on this evening?!

So, I would like you to accept this email on my behalf (and my family’s behalf who are also deaf) as a formal complaint.

Thank you for your time and patience.

Yours sincerely,

Sara Jae”

Emails were shared with others for their peruse and over that short period of time, the emails grew more detailed and legally sounding. The end result being templates for members of our various communities to use. Thank you to her.

The Tree House gang was starting to kick ass!

As time elapsed during the evening, no one could access the debate and those who could listen along, were tempted to scream and shout at the screens. Why?

Because…they talked about how ‘public services’ should be accessible when their own debate wasn’t accessible. They are after all, also a ‘public service’?? Even more shocking was the fact that they actually talked about how things should be more accessible in BSL and subtitling. They basically shot themselves in the foot by not practising what they preached. To have one rule for themselves and another for others; but perhaps now we have emailed and made some noise they will expect us the next time they give us a reason to voice our concerns so hopefully they would want to get it right the first time around… (surely we’re not that bad??!)

Eventually the transcript transpired and the standard of English on this meant that some unfortunately could not grasp the whole context. SignHealth who kickstarted their #sickofit campaign have provided BSL versions to reflect their plain English versions on the Hansard publication to include the BSL community on an united and equal basis as a whole. As equals, regardless.  Thanks to SignHealth for their time and patience.

Within the transcript, we discovered this gem from Baroness Jolly: “… It is up to the service providers to anticipate the requirements of disabled people and the reasonable adjustments that may have to be made for them in advance before any disabled person attempts to access their service. The reasonable adjustment duty is an anticipatory duty, so it is just not acceptable for health services not to be equipped to provide communication support to those who need it”. Surely this should also apply to other services? Like their own online streaming service!!?!

Developments due to our emails, (Weds 2nd April 2014) Meanwhile here’s a link to a subtitled version of the speech as mentioned below (Please press CC)

“How will the government improve the health of deaf people? | House of Lords debate 31 March 2014”

“Dear Sara,

Thank you for your email regarding the debate below, initiated by Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, in the House of Lords on Monday evening.

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they intend to take to improve the health of deaf people”

We are grateful for your feedback and sorry that the live broadcast coverage of the debate was not supported by either British Sign Language (BSL) or subtitles. We have now made the footage of the debate available on the House of Lords YouTube channel with subtitles. This can be found at:

If you would prefer to read the Hansard transcript of the debate, it is available at:

Your complaint has been passed to the Clerk of the Parliaments, the Chief Executive of the House of Lords, who is consulting ParliAble – the Workplace Equality Network in support of disabled MPs, peers and staff – to seek their advice on policy for the future. He has also ensured that Parliament’s broadcasting unit takes the needs of the deaf community into account as they develop their new audio visual strategy.

Many of those who made a complaint about this issue also pointed out that the email auto-response from our Enquiry Service stated that if a response was required urgently to ring the Enquiry Service telephone number, and that this was not an appropriate solution for the deaf community. Parliament operates a text relay service and the details of this service have now been included in the Enquiry Service’s email auto-response. We apologise for its previous omission.

Yours sincerely

Benet Hiscock

Director of Public Information

Information Office

House of Lords

London SW1A 0PW

Tel: 020 7219 0671

Mob: 07932 569 140

Follow us on Twitter @UKHouseofLords”

Several of us emailed back to thank them for subtitling the said speech and for their time and patience. Suggestions were made regarding Text Relay (and other issues) as not everyone uses Text Relay anymore these days. Guess what? We got another automated response :-/ Which is to be followed up in due course.

Here is their email response:

“Dear Sara,

Thank you for the further information you have provided. We will forward it to the Clerk of the Parliaments to inform future policy.

The Enquiry Service endeavours to respond to all email enquiries immediately. However, due to the size of the team, occasionally it does not have the capacity to do this, so we can only guarantee to provide a response within 10 working days. Though we can only guarantee to respond in this timescale, any email enquiry that is urgent, i.e. has a clear deadline by which a response is required, is prioritised so a response is provided in the appropriate timescale.

We apologise that our auto-response email message has caused confusion.

Kind regards,

Information Office

House of Lords

London SW1A 0PW

Tel: 020 7219 3107

The Tree House would like to end this on the same note as on the Hansard publication which stated “Equality is the watchword.”

May we take this opportunity to refer you to our recent blog regarding making a complaint regarding NHS and/or Government services in case you need to make any. Thank you ever so for your time and patience.


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