Law Society holds deaf awareness presentation

Article Posted: 28th Jun 2013

Communications support for the deaf and their access to justice was the topic for a ‘lunch and learn’ session organised by the Isle of Man Law Society and given by the Island’s deaf champion Gareth Foulkes of the UK charity Deafway.
Central to the presentation were findings from ‘A Life Less Equal’, a research report led by Mr Foulkes and commissioned by the Manx Deaf Society.

Deaf from the age of three, although possessing some residual hearing, Mr Foulkes, who was accompanied by his hearing dog Derfel, told his audience of advocates and representatives from the Manx criminal justice system that the needs of the deaf were ‘more complex than most hearing people realised.’ This was confirmed by the Life Less Equal report which concluded that ‘in many areas of life, deaf people living in the Isle of Man have a much worse quality of life than hearing people. It is of particular concern that in relation to situations where deaf people’s health, lives and liberty are at stake, there is currently no system for the provision of appropriate communication.’

To illustrate the findings Mr Foulkes showed a short film made to highlight the difficulties encountered by a deaf person when he attended court and what communications support should have been provided. ‘Having access to communications support is never just for the deaf person, it’s for the benefit of all parties,’ he explained.

To protect deaf people’s human rights there was, he said, a need for legal, enforcement and health professionals to acquire deaf awareness skills, be encouraged to learn sign language and have access to accredited interpreters. He added: ‘We’re also looking at remote online interpreting, although that wouldn’t be acceptable for evidence gathering.

‘Human rights are about fairness, dignity and respect,’ he said, in support of which he outlined recommendations from the report requiring immediate attention. These included deaf awareness training for judges, legal professionals, GPs, surgery staff and all frontline emergency services personnel.

Mr Foulkes also welcomed the day when the Disability Discrimination Act 2006 came into force in the Island, expected to be before the end of 2013, as it would help advance the modernisation of the Island’s criminal justice system, he said.

Concluding he invited all advocates to consider:

•    Are frontline staff deaf aware or can they use BSL (British Sign Language)?
•    Do you know the three Rs: Repeat, Re-phrase then Write it down?
•    Are loop systems fitted and do they work?
•    Can your services be accessed by BT Text Direct (a phone relay system)?
•    Is lighting adequate for lip reading?
•    Where there are screens, are they fitted with non-reflective glass to aid lip reading?
•    Can deaf sign language users access your services using remote online interpreting?
•    Are you ready for implementation of the Disability Discrimination