Taking on the baton….

switzerLooking at some posts and newspaper articles that were published last Sunday for International Women’s day, I couldn’t help but feel how lucky I was that so many women had fought long and hard to achieve the benefits I probably take for granted every day. One post on facebook showed a picture of a woman (Kathrine Switzer) running the 1967 Boston marathon despite stewards trying to physically remove her off the road because she was not a man and Emmeline Pankhurst who was imprisoned many times for protesting to allow women to have a voice and a right to vote the same as a man.

I am also fortunate to work in a profession (British Sign Language / English Interpreting) where I have not personally, experienced sexism by male colleagues. In terms of unequal pay for a woman compared to a man in the same role, it would appear that because freelance interpreters decide their own fees based on the current market trends and what interpreting organisations such as Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) advise and usually based on what other interpreters are charging – regardless of sex, I don’t believe this is a current issue. Recently with the worrying situation over the proposed national framework http://limpingchicken.com/2014/12/09/national-framework-agreement/ male and female interpreters have stuck together to campaign and lobby for a fairer more just National Framework Agreement to benefit both BSL interpreters and deaf people.

So whilst it seems things are improving and appear to be much better compared to what it has been in the past, the UK is not perfect. Equality isn’t something I am interested in achieving only for women. For example, the recent quote from Mencap that  175 people with a learning disability were turned away from a polling station – because they had a learning disability https://twitter.com/mencap_charity , or that people with learning disabilities are less likely to receive an invitation to be screened for breast cancer (10%) despite a 90% take up rate for those that do (Health Care Commission 2005). Or, that considering there is such an emphasis on people being informed to make healthy choices, whilst hearing people are bombarded with advice, there is a lack of even basic health information in British Sign Language; and, that 8 in 10 people who are deaf want to communicate with their doctor using British Sign Language, but only 3 in 10 are given the chance http://www.signhealth.org.uk/health-information/sick-of-it-report/sick-of-it-in-english/

It might be easy for me or for us as a society to be complacent. I could have an attitude of apathy and make do with the status quo. However, just because I personally don’t experience inequality does not mean it is not happening around me. We need to hold onto these laws and rights that have been achieved by others and not take them for granted. Unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world and whilst it would be nice to think we can all live in equality and harmony without employment laws, the Equality Act, etc. this is not the current situation. I only have to look at the shameful acts of some Chelsea football fans for pushing a man off a tube carriage because he was black and shouting racist chants to know that there is still a lot of work to be done in making this an equal society for all. We need to ensure that we consciously act to keep and improve the current standards that so many have fought hard and even lost their lives to achieve. Yes I believe I have it easier than my fellow sisters in the late 19th / early 20th Century but the baton has now been passed onto us to be proactive to ensure that those from all walks of life have a fairer society in which to live.

Image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/recuerdosdepandora/7060270605/in/photolist-

Choices….

Choices“That was quick!” That’s what a deaf person said to me recently after an appointment. They meant no malice, but they were referring to the appointment being quick, approx 20 minutes. Looking back at my blog last week (https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/02/15/cutting-costs-who-are-we-kidding/), some people might think that an interpreter being present at a 20 minute appointment is pointless. In fact, I did feel that when I went into the assignment, the hearing person was wondering why I was there when there was not much speech to be interpreted. However, isn’t it about ‘having a fair crack of the whip?’ (As my father likes to say).That each person in society has the same choices as everyone else? I always remember at an interview once where the term ‘reasonable adjustment’ was described as – not lowering the standard but making adjustments so that we all have the same opportunity to achieve the desired standard, whether that be in the workplace, education, sport, or anywhere else.

I always enjoy receiving comments about my blogs and one in particular stuck out for me from my last post on cutting costs. It said that despite the cuts in education, health care or whatever service it may be, people who are deaf can still achieve. Just to be clear, I take that as a given. But, most importantly from this week’s blog, I want to make the point that these inequalities are still not fair or acceptable. In a society which has the recent Equality Act 2010 focussing on equality and diversity (positive!) there is still inequality throughout our society.

I believe it is imperative that we all have informed choice. Whether that would be an informed choice to a qualified or trainee interpreter, an informed choice as to which interpreter or note taker, deafblind interpreters, lipspeakers, etc. the person chooses, or informed choice about the information they are receiving.  A basic human right, agreed? Going back to my opening statement about ‘That was quick!’ I believe it was the deaf person’s right to have that information about what was going on in the room, the same as every other hearing person present, regardless of the time it took. With information people then have the knowledge to make choices about their situation and future. It is also their right to have that information interpreted clearly and accurately, thus the importance of having a registered (fully qualified) or regulated (trainee) interpreter so that bits of information aren’t left out or modified to fit the person’s ability to sign the message.

Having the choice of not wanting an interpreter present, I think, is also just as important. Perhaps the deaf person wants to have a family relation with them instead of an interpreter in a hospital appointment. Equally, perhaps they are happy to lip-read and don’t feel the need to book an interpreter. Each to their own! The important thing is a person’s right to have choices. It still baffles me why the powers that be question the cost of an interpreter. I feel the payment of interpreters needs to be factored into organisations’ budgets. Just like other professionals, tasks and equipment are budgeted for. For example, in the NHS shouldn’t an interpreter (for those deaf people that want one) be part of their overall health service from the taxes they pay? Is the health service I receive the same for a deaf person who requires an interpreter to communicate with the doctor but hasn’t been provided with one? Whilst I understand that for small businesses this could be more difficult compared to larger, corporate, companies, this is where the government needs to provide a budget for this. Isn’t this what Access to Work was/is about?  This could be similar to the requirements for most new buildings to contain a lift; all new public buildings and retail shops would require a lift as it would be unreasonable not to install one. Whilst a person in a wheelchair may never use these buildings, they have a choice to use them. Similarly, as a woman, I have a choice to have a baby without the worry that my job will be replaced by someone else.

We are all entitled to a level playing field in life. Whether that is me having a right as a woman to have my pay equal to the male equivalent in the same role at work; or a deaf person’s choice to have an interpreter – whatever the length of time; Or, my right to have the same standard of medical care regardless of how much I earn or I can afford to pay. What people choose to do after that is up to them. Hopefully, registered (fully qualified) and regulated (trainee) interpreters can contribute towards this level playing field.

Image from: © Copyright Andy Waddington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.