Wow. Over the past couple of weeks, so much has been bubbling within me, to the point where I’ve gone beyond feeling angry about things, and am now trying to use that anger to make a positive difference. You know how it goes; you’ll read something, or experience something, and know that it’s so horrendously wrong…but you have no idea how to change it. No idea how to make it better. And then, as more time starts to pass, you may meet people who feel the same way as you, and want to make the same changes as you…and then more people get added to the mix, and before you know it, you have a whole group of people who want to put their collective voices together to stand up against things. Peacefully, of course, and in a highly positive way. I’m very happy to say that I’ve found these people, and am now working towards changing things, for the better.
These ‘things’ are mostly to do with the UK Government. At present, we have the Coalition Government, which is Conservative, “supported” by the Liberal Democrats – but let’s not delve into that. The fact is that this government are implementing cuts where they shouldn’t be; before I get attacked by a wave of people supporting the government, let me take some time to explain. I am profoundly deaf, and since a young age, my mother had fought and claimed Disability Living Allowance for both myself and my older deaf sister. This money (a benefit) is there for us to be on an equal footing with our hearing peers; it pays for any equipment we may use (minicoms, vibrating alarm clocks, flashing lights for when the doorbell rings, hearing aid batteries at the weekend – when the NHS clinic is shut…), and any other costs that may incur as a result of being deaf in a hearing world. For many other disabled people, this money also helps them to be able to fund things they shouldn’t have to pay for out of their own pockets. Now, this government wants to scrap DLA. It is, the plans are already in motion. They are re-assessing all people who currently claim it, and are going to decide on whether we are eligible for a new benefit that will replace it – PIP (Personal Independence Payment).
You may be thinking: why change something, if it works? Well, that’s the point I’m getting to – it does work, so it really doesn’t actually make much sense for them to change it. They are throwing millions of pounds worth of money away through hiring an external company to assess people, changing a system that works, and they have a ‘target’. This target is to cut the amount of people who are on DLA, or rather, who can be eligible for PIP. It honestly does not make sense. Rather than supporting their people, they are taking away vital benefits, benefits that actually help to improve the standards of living for many, many people in this country. And for what? Just because they need to cut back on government spending? It’s atrocious.
This is why I am so pleased that people are making sure that their voices are being heard; Melissa Mostyn, a fellow deaf blogger, has written a great post on why we should get behind campaigning against the welfare cuts: Eleven reasons why the UK deaf population should join the war on welfare. On Facebook, there is a group for people who want to speak up: Deaf People Against Welfare Cuts. Something needs to change, and I’m feeling positive that our voices will be heard.
The other thing is a campaign for a BSL Act. BSL stands for British Sign Language, and it is used by many people in the UK as their first language, and many more as their preferred language – for example, although English is my first language, I am finding more and more that BSL is much easier to access, and makes life generally more accessible for me. It is a pain to spend a whole day lipreading, and it is so much guesswork that it just tires you out. With BSL, I find that the strain is taken away, and I can access the spoken word a lot more freely and easily. Therefore, the government statistics that there are around 55,000 users of BSL in the UK, is in fact wrong. The more accurate figure is around 122,000. When you consider this, it seems extremely silly that BSL isn’t afforded the same legal rights as spoken languages.
For example, for most of my GP appointments, my mum still comes along with me – even though I am almost 24. If she didn’t come with me, I would struggle to access what my doctor is saying. Even with audiology appointments, which I have to attend more regularly, and usually on my own, I struggle, because I find that audiologists don’t even have a good understanding of deaf awareness, and they work with deaf and hard-of-hearing people on a regular basis. (This isn’t to say that all audiologists are like this, but I’ve come across this many times…and it’s not right.) Getting the EDM (Early Day Motion) of the BSL Act into parliament will mean that access issues for all deaf people can be discussed; and when this happens, it will hopefully lead the way for access issues to be improved. The UK is falling behind with deaf access, and although a lot of good things have been improved…there is still a long, long way to go.
The Facebook group for the BSL Act is: Spit the dummy and campaign for BSL ACT! For the lists of MPs who are able to put their vote forward for the EDM: you can find the ones who are going to be voting for it here, and the ones who have yet to sign it here. If your MP can vote for this cause, then please, if you believe in this, email them, write to them, or even visit them in person, and tell them why you believe it is so important that this gets discussed. The deadline is 30th of April, which is fast approaching; but huge waves are being made, and this makes me feel so proud.
I know that this is a very heavy and long blog post, but it is something that I am feeling very passionate about. Change is already happening, and it will only get better. We will improve access for thousands of deaf people in the UK, and we will not back down. Forever positive.