Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Supporting equal access to telecoms for Deaf people and Deaf people in Hyndburn

Deafness has been an issue that has come up in the constituency last week both with constituents asking me to attend the VRS Today event in Parliament and calls locally for a 'Deaf Forum' for Hyndburn where deaf people can have greater access to Council services and engage in the debates on local issues. I will be discussing this with the Council when we meet next.

Yesterday I joined the campaign for equal access to telecommunications for Deaf people, at a Parliamentary event in support of the VRS Today! campaign. The campaign is calling for British Sign Language users to have universal access to Video Relay Services (VRS) – a technology which allows them to place calls to hearing people via a sign language interpreter.

I met members of the Deaf community and providers of VRS technology in the House of Commons to learn more about the impact the technology could have on Deaf people’s lives and to show his support.

If I want to speak to my friends, family or constituents at any time – all I have to do is pick up the phone. But 50,000 British Sign Language users across the country are currently denied this opportunity. I want to see the Deaf community having the same access to telecommunications that hearing people take for granted – that’s why I’m supporting the VRS Today! campaign.

Notes About VRS Today!

British Sign Language (BSL) users do not have equal access to telecommunications in the UK. Existing text-based services are slow and outdated – they force BSL users to communicate in their second language, English.

Video Relay Services (VRS) is a proven technology which creates equal access to telecommunications for sign language users, and for the hearing who wish to communicate with them. VRS has been universally available in the US for many years, provided by several operators.

VRS in the UK is not currently universally available; it will require support from the Government and the regulator Ofcom to make universal VRS a reality for BSL users. To find out more about the campaign, please visit http://www.vrstoday.com/