Right, we know there are not many Deaf lawyers in the UK.
We know that there are even fewer Deaf lawyers undertaking advocacy in tribunals and court.
I’m one of them. As an employment solicitor, I undertake advocacy in the Employment Tribunal on a regular basis.
Now, bear in mind that I’m profoundly Deaf and my first language is English as opposed to say BSL. I am a fluent BSL user, equally comfortable with spoken English. However, I’d be the first to admit that I do not have perfect speech; I’ve never actually *heard* a word so go figure. My voice is rather high pitched, and I tend to trip over my words from time to time or mulch all the words into one big mush as I don’t allow time to elocute-each-word-fully.
A weird byproduct of my “imperfect” speech is that some people understand me, and some don’t. I find I’m sometimes able to identify who falls into these categories: females in the former, and males in the latter; individuals who know how to LISTEN and those who don’t.
So, I undertake tribunal advocacy with imperfect speech. I hear you say: “that’s easy! Just use BSL!”. Well, yes, I could, but that would mean translating complex legal principles etc. into BSL and then hoping, just hoping, that the interpreter will be able to grasp the legal principle as well as the point I’m making, and voice over that in a way that is appropriate for such a situation i.e. formal language with legalese thrown in.
Are there actually any interpreters out there able to do this for me? And can they go to each tribunal regardless of location within England and Wales to do exactly that? I doubt it.
So, therein lies the problem. How does one solve it? Answers on a postcard please.