- June 10, 2020

This is one story as part of the Voices of People with Disabilities during COVID19 Outbreak series

Names may have been changed to protect the individuals mentioned in the story.

Lynn Stewart-Taylor launched the #whereistheinterpreter campaign in the UK. As told to Ahmed Kalifa on the Hear Me Out! podcast.

“I’ve been Deaf all of my life and I’m a sign language user. Growing up I had huge amounts of barriers and lack of access to different situations, had lots of frustrations.

“As I got older, I started to think that actually maybe something could be done about this. I didn’t want the next generation of deaf children to experience the barriers that I had, but obviously at the moment we’re still fighting.

“The #whereistheinterpreter campaign is a very new thing for me. It really is not my area of expertise in all fairness, but it’s something that really touched such a nerve with me about the fact that we weren’t being treated equally, we’re not getting access to information.

“Things just aren’t fair, so that’s made me feel like now’s the time to speak out and shout as loudly as we can in sign language.

“I’m anxious, I’m worried. The global health crisis is happening. It’s not just localised, it’s everywhere.

“This is a life and death situation. I’ve not been able to get full access to information to know how to protect myself and how to protect others. I’ve just thought if it’s affecting me, it must be affecting lots of other people.

“We’re really experiencing a lack of access to information on our own language. There are 87,000, possibly more, BSL-using people in the UK and lots of us are experiencing frustrations.

“I grew up using sign language, English is my second language, it’s not native to me.

“Everything’s rattling off at such a pace, and then at the end you’re just trying to piece together bits and bobs. You maybe can’t remember everything. They might have been a lot of overwhelming information there because it’s not our first language.

“We always seem to be the last to know these vital pieces of information and that leaves us feeling very, very undervalued.

“I think how are we supposed to protect the NHS if we cannot follow those main government guidelines?

“The Welsh government, the Scottish government, they have provided sign language interpreters, even New Zealand, Australia, other countries around the world.

“But here in the UK there’s been such a lack of information or access to information for us in our first and preferred language.

“This can’t be put on the back burner. This isn’t something that we need a consultation on in two- or three-weeks’ time, we need to be actioning it now, right now.

“I said it before, I’m going to say it again, there’s 87,000 BSL-using Deaf people in this country. They really need their access, which is why I’ve been banging on and promoting that hashtag on a daily basis.

“I will continue to do so because enough is enough, we’re in 2020 for goodness sake. This isn’t just some little bit of information that’s going out, this is important to us.

“We’re in a national crisis. We should be getting live access as it happens. It’s not happening.

“We’re human too. We live in the UK, we’re British citizens. I feel like we’re being treated as second- or third-rate citizens really. I’ve got a family, I’ve got friends, I’ve got feelings too. I’m important too and please consider us.

“Sometimes things are recorded and then streamed later on, but they always seem to cut off the interpreter, so trying to watch it later on is no good. Facebook, Twitter, there’s never any interpreters there.

“We need to make sure people understand what to do. I think if a deaf person contracts COVID-19, they end up in hospital, how are they going to be communicated with?

“All of the hospital staff have got their masks on. They’re in full-face visors. Goodness me, I can’t even allow myself to think that far ahead. I just have to hope and pray that that doesn’t happen.

“I think so many deaf people are feeling extremely isolated at the moment. I know everybody’s worried, I know the whole world is worried, but I think we’re a very, very isolated minority community.

“It’s even worse for deaf people.

“We haven’t even touched on those with a dual sensory loss like deaf-blind people. There are so many minority groups that are experiencing barriers to access to this vital information and how to get help.

“This is our life too, and we’re all human. We all matter. We just need access in our preferred and chosen language. We want access to those services. We’re scared too.

“Please help us, share the #WhereIsTheInterpreter.”

In other news