#WhereIsTheInterpreter – open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson

By NUBSLI | Published on 6 October 2020

Last updated on February 14th, 2022 at 4:23 pm

Related: Covid-19

It is vital that deaf people have equal access to life-saving information during the COVID-19 pandemic. The #WhereIsTheInterpreter campaign urges the Government to provide real-time BSL interpretation during their addresses to the nation.

NUBSLI supports this campaign and on 1 October sent the below open letter to the Prime Minister.

The Rt. Honourable Boris Johnson, MP
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

29 September 2020

Dear Mr Johnson

Where is the Interpreter?

We are writing to you to support the #WhereIsTheInterpreter campaign and to demand the government follow equality law, to ensure equal access for deaf people to the coronavirus updates.

There are more than 80,000 deaf people in the UK who use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first language. In this time of national crisis, it is paramount they have access to information in BSL so they can follow guidance correctly and keep themselves and their families safe.

The lack of access provided currently has led to confusion amongst the deaf community and allowed an environment for hearsay and rumour to spread. This is made more dangerous for a community who, when accessing care and information that the majority of the population at large take for granted, already face barriers in communicating with professionals.

Providing equal access for deaf people is not the responsibility of third parties or voluntary organisations. As the government of this country and a body providing a public service, particularly one with this level of importance, it is your legal obligation under under the Equality Act (2010) to make reasonable adjustments to ensure those who have protected characteristics can access this information. By failing to meet these legal standards, you are placing the lives of those already experiencing communication barriers on a daily basis at further risk of harm.

We ask that you ensure a registered sign language interpreter or translator is in attendance at all future briefings, to ensure the deaf community have equal access to the information you are providing to the citizens of the UK. If you are unsure how this might work whilst following current guidelines, please see how it is managed by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales and even Donald Trump, U.S. President.

Yours sincerely

National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters