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Petition Require British Sign Language Interpreters for emergency announcements on TV.

The Deaf community want the government to make a commitment to provide BSL interpreters alongside any emergency announcements. This will allow members of the Deaf community to access information in their preferred language.

More details

The government has a duty of care to its citizens, therefore it is their responsibility to ensure any public announcements made are accessible for all. This is covered by both the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

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Government responded

This response was given on 13 May 2020

The Government has assessed that in accordance with PHE guidelines, we cannot safely include a BSL interpreter in the room for daily briefings without potentially putting them and others at risk.

Read the response in full

The Government is committed to building a digitally inclusive society, and aims to ensure that COVID-19 media announcements are accessible for all UK audiences. As broadcasters are independent from the Government, they are responsible for their signing resources and for meeting statutory accessibility requirements set out by Ofcom.

Social distancing rules may make it harder for broadcasters to provide appropriate signing resources. However, the Government continues to engage with broadcasters on developing accessibility provisions that are in line with the Government’s social distancing guidelines.

In line with Public Health England (PHE) guidelines, it is not possible to safely include a physical British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter in the room for daily briefings as this would require additional operations staff such as an additional cameraman to be present. At Downing Street the Government is working within the constraints of a historical site with limited space.

Everyone in government continues to practice social distancing, which means staying two metres apart where possible, and journalists are currently attending the daily briefings remotely rather than in person in order to prevent unnecessary risk. Having an interpreter physically attend, along with any additional staff required to facilitate broadcast of the interpretation, contradicts the PHE guidelines, and potentially puts them and others at risk.

For these reasons the Government believes that it is right to limit the number of people present in the daily briefings to protect all those who must be present from additional risks.

However, it is vital that that public health information reaches everyone across the country, which is why BSL interpretation of the daily Covid briefings is now provided via the BBC News channel and iPlayer, which are available on a wide range of platforms – including satellite and cable services, as well as Freeview and over the internet. The Government continues to engage with broadcasters to ensure greater replication of this ‘remote’ signed interpretation across a wider range of media channels.

ITV’s bespoke Sign Language studio, SignPost, is also offering content for the deaf community online, with a daily online news bulletin produced remotely from presenters’ houses. This has a BSL interpreter covering all of the latest news regarding Covid. The Government will continue to engage with broadcasters about including signing provisions in future announcements to ensure that information is accessible.

On wider programming signing requirements, Ofcom, as the independent broadcast regulator, enforces statutory targets for the amount of signing that eligible broadcasters, including BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, have to provide. It is up to the broadcasters to determine which programmes they select for signing. Ofcom encourages all broadcasters to go beyond their statutory requirements through best practice guidelines. These provide guidance for broadcasters on selecting programmes, advising that broadcasters should give priority to the most popular programmes and a broad range of programmes. It is Ofcom’s role to monitor how broadcasters are meeting their signing targets, including taking into account the current circumstances.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/301461)

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At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

Other parliamentary business

Original government response

The Government is engaging with broadcasters on ensuring accessibility provisions are available for COVID-19 emergency announcements. We support the BBC’s enhanced signing measures as of 23 March.

The Government is committed to building a digitally inclusive society, and aims to ensure that COVID-19 media announcements are accessible for all UK audiences. As broadcasters are independent from the Government, they are responsible for their signing resources.

Social distancing rules may make it harder for broadcasters to provide appropriate signing resources. However, the Government continues to engage with broadcasters on developing accessibility provisions that are in line with the Government’s social distancing guidelines.

The BBC is providing British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters for all of the Government’s daily COVID-19 government briefings on the BBC News channel, seven days of the week. The briefings are at 17.00 each day, with the timing and length of the briefings varying. To accommodate this, the BBC has put in place new measures from 23 March. In addition to the signing on weekday mornings for the breakfast news at 07:45-08:15, the 13:00-13:30 news will also be signed each weekday. The daily coronavirus special is signed and signing provisions are also available on the press conference section of the BBC News Special, which is available on the iPlayer. Since the Government briefings have begun on the weekends, the usual 07:00-07:30 slots on weekends have not been signed as of yet. The BBC continues to review its use of BSL interpreters on an ongoing basis, as resource pressures change.

In addition, ITV’s bespoke Sign Language studio, SignPost, is offering content for the deaf community online, with a daily online news bulletin produced remotely from presenters’ houses. This has a BSL interpreter covering all of the latest news regarding COVID-19 and is available at www.bslzone.co.uk/covid-19-news-info

The Government will continue to engage with broadcasters about including signing provisions in future announcements to ensure that information is accessible. Also, the Government publishes press conference statements on the Government website which can be accessed at: www.gov.uk/coronavirus along with the latest guidance and information.

On wider programming signing requirements, Ofcom, as the independent broadcast regulator, enforces statutory targets for the amount of signing that eligible broadcasters, including BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, have to provide. It is up to the broadcasters to determine which programmes they select for signing. Ofcom encourages all broadcasters to go beyond their statutory requirements through best practice guidelines. These provide guidance for broadcasters on selecting programmes, advising that broadcasters should give priority to the most popular programmes and a broad range of programmes. It is Ofcom’s role to monitor how broadcasters are meeting their signing targets, including taking into account the current circumstances.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

This response was given on 9 April 2020. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

MPs investigate the impact of coronavirus on people with protected characteristic

A group of MPs called the Women and Equalities Committee is looking into the impact of coronavirus on people with protected characteristics.

You can find out about the inquiry, including how to submit your views and events the Committee is holding in relation to this inquiry, here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/227/coronavirus-and-the-impact-on-people-with-protected-characteristics/

If you’d like to access a BSL version of the call for evidence for this inquiry you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1l-nxy5fsI&feature=youtu.be

The deadline for giving the Committee your views is 30 April. If you cannot get it to us before then, please don’t worry, as it will still be useful to us if you submit it later.

What is the Women and Equalities Committee?

The Women and Equalities Committee is a cross-party committee of MPs that looks at and questions matters relating to the Government’s activity on equality law and policy. The Committee is independent of Government.

You can find out more about the Committee on it’s website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/328/women-and-equalities-committee/

You can follow the Committee on Twitter @Commonswomequ: https://twitter.com/Commonswomequ

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_2RDuDs44c

Further Information

You may also be interested to know that because of the large number of petitions that have been started in relation to coronavirus, the Petitions Committee has been questioning the Government about its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Find out more and watch the Committee put questions suggested by petitioners to Government Ministers and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/145767/committee-question-deputy-chief-medical-officer-and-ministers-on-coronavirus-response/

Read letters asking further questions of Government Ministers, including one asking for a revised response to this petition: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/publications/3/correspondence/

You can read impartial analysis of the Government response to coronavirus and policy developments here:
https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/coronavirus/

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