by In Wales
Fri Jun 12th, 2009 at 03:51:03 AM EST
The European Union of the Deaf has been campaigning to support Deaf candidates across Europe who were standing in the Euro elections. 4 Deaf candidates were elected. 3 of them from centre-right parties unfortunately but one from the Greens. More below the fold.
EUD would like to take this opportunity to announce that there are four Deaf Members of Parliaments around Europe. Never before in Deaf history, there are four at the same time in one particular area in the world. It clearly proves that sign language is no barrier in the world of politics. It will serve as an inspiration for all Deaf Europeans to follow their historical paths to serve their countries through their Parliaments.
Well, it is good news but it is something of a fallacy to suggest that this is proof that sign language is no barrier in the world of politics. Proof that the barriers can be overcome in the right circumstances, perhaps.
The presence of interpreters in the European Parliament must be fairly high so as far as any sign language is concerned we are just talking about another language being interpreted.
It looks as though at least two of the candidates primarily use sign language (I suspect all four do) so they would have had support along the campaign trail and also within their parties in order to access politics from the activist level upwards. This is non-existent in the UK as far as my experience goes. Who would pay for interpreters? It isn't a justifiable cost.
So I have to say I would really like to know how these candidates secured the communication support they needed in order to access politics in their own countries.
One of the candidates is in the Flemish Parliament, so what was in place to support her at a national level?
Name: Helga STEVENS
Nationality: Belgian (Flemish)
Party: N-VA - New-Flemish Alliance is a Flemish centre-right political party. It is a conservative movement that strives for peaceful secession of Flanders from Belgium.
Elected in the Flemish Parliament in 2004
Re-elected in 2009
Next election in 2014
The fact is that as a Deaf person I was born without crucial rights. I had no right to access Deaf culture or to learn BSL, to be educated through the medium of BSL, to engage in society and politics through the medium of BSL. Deafness has only been covered under the medical model of disability since the introduction of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act - and even then, I only have the right to have adjustments made for my disability in certain circumstances and only if it is 'reasonable'. And there are always 100+ reasons as to why it is not reasonable. Cost, lack of interpreters, ignorance, second class citizen being too much of a burden...
So nothing will change for Deaf people in politics in the UK who use BSL as their first language. And it is way too difficult even for someone like me to 'get by' in the system we have here.
Here are the other Deaf Parliamentarians in Europe:
Name: Dr Ádám KÓSA
Party: FIDESZ - Hungarian Civic Union (Magyar Polgári Szövetség) is a large conservative and Centre-Right political party. It is a member of the European People's Party (EPP).
Elected in the European Parliament in 2009
Next election in 2014
DoDo, have you come across him?
Name: Dimitra ARAPOGLU
Party: LA.O.S - Popular Orthodox Rally or The People's Orthodox Rally (Greek: Λαϊκός Ορθόδοξος Συναγερμός, Laïkós Orthódoxos Synagermós), often abbreviated to ΛΑ.Ο.Σ. (LA.O.S.) is a Greek conservative populist/nationalist political party.
Elected in the Greek Parliament in 2007
Next election in 2011
Name: Helene JARMER
Party: The Greens - The Green Alternative (German: Die Grünen - Die Grüne Alternative, also called the Austrian Green Party). Apart from ecological issues such as environmental protection, the Greens also campaign for the rights of minorities and advocate a socio-ecological (ökosozial) tax reform. Their basic values according to their charter in 2001 are: "direct democracy, non-violence, ecology, solidarity, feminism and self-determination.
Is taking over Ulrike Lunacek's seat in the Austrian Parliament.
Next election in 2013
This sounds a bit better, minority rights and the like...
All this brings me onto the fact that the UK has just ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which finally gives me full rights as a Deaf person in a way that I have never had before.
Explained on the Islington Deaf Campaign's blog.
Just for you here is the English translation.
Islington Deaf Campaign (IDC): UK Government News Ratification for Deaf - IDC
The Government been attending to New York today
to ratified International Treaty: UN Convention on
Right of People with Disabilities ALSO Deaf!
IDC on history that Betty (Chairperson), myself
and IDC been lots of meetings for human rights
campaign for make sure our rights are match
We first become very interested in this Treaty
in 2006. We asked details about International
Treaty wow very important to us. We want
these rights! IDC been asking for our Islington MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP to sign with International Treaty
and he did asked the Parliament with questions
and got the answers.
The Government says they will sign the Treaty,
then finally they did in March 2007. We
realise that it is only signed which means only
support these principles from the Govenment.
Not enough. Only signed. There is no law
changing at all. We IDC kept going and
campaign these to the Government.
Today the Government officially ratified
which means our rights we can use now -
high standard. We can tell the Government
to comply with the Treaty. If the government
ignore, we can use this treaty to show them!
The EUD have produced a DVD for Deaf people explaining what their rights are under the Convention - see some excerpts below.
Article 3 (General Principles)
- sets forth eight important principles that should be applied in the interpretation and implementation of all the other articles. They are:
a) Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons.
c) Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
d) Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
e) Equality of opportunity;
g) Equality between men and women;
h) Respect for evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
Please follow the link to read the other relevant articles which cover accessibility, freedom of expression and opinion and access to information, education, Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.
For the first time in my life this provides me with the same rights as anyone else, in terms of having full and equal access to society, on my terms. It will be a while before it makes that difference but no doubt case law will push things along the way.
Perhaps it will eventually lead to a more accessible political system where disabled and Deaf Parliamentarians are much more visible and influential.