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Lord Rogan calls on Government to secure better access and support for Northern Ireland’s Deaf community

Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Rogan has called on the Government  to demand better access and support for Northern Ireland’s deaf community and ask the Government what  action  they  will  take  to promote  the  needs  of  deaf  people  in  the  provision  of  public services.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Rogan said;

“In  our modern  society we excel when it comes to discussing  rights, but  my  experience  is  that  we’re  usually  better  at  discussing  than doing.

Deafness  is  nothing  new  –  and  it  is  clearly  an  issue  which  affects  a significant  number  of  people.   In  Northern  Ireland  alone  there  are over  200,000  people  who  are  deaf  and  hard  of  hearing.   This  is  a significant  proportion  of  the  population,  --  some  15%  of  people living in Northern Ireland  --  and no doubt a rising proportion,  given the increasing numbers of people who are living well into old age.

I  find  it  perplexing,  therefore,  given  the  scale  of  the  issue  and society’s familiarity with it, that we seem to fail so  miserably at even the basics of providing adequate access to public services, let alone equality of access.

Access to health services is a particular area of concern. In 2009 the British Deaf Association in Northern Ireland and the RNID contacted  GP  practices  in  the  Province  to  ask  them  about  hearing, blind  or  partially  sighted  issues and some  of  the  results  were  rather concerning with the lack of available facilities leading to a reliance on friends and family, undermines independence and  leads to feelings of isolation and despair.

The charities have suggested that this collectively points to a lack of general awareness, understanding and insight concerning the needs, circumstances  and  experiences  of  people  with  disabilities. It  would also appear that there is an  inadequate grasp of the legal obligations placed  on  public  service  providers  by  the  Disability  Discrimination Act.

While access to Health services is of most concern, the complaint applies across the board from Jobs and Benefits Offices, leisure facilities, interpreters for deaf parents at teacher-parent meetings, school correspondence, emergency telephones on the motorway, arts and cultural events.Indeed the entire spectrum of life in a modern Western Society

As the British Deaf Association in Northern Ireland put it, deaf people are currently not afforded access to public services on or near a par with hearing people. Deaf people want to be included in every day society and given the opportunity to make decisions and choices for themselves.

It is incumbent upon Government to play its part to facilitate that process and to ensure that deaf awareness is given greater focus.”

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