Deaf woman wins compensation fight against Government over sign language at Covid briefings

A deaf woman has won a High Court case after complaining about a lack of British Sign Language interpreters at Government Covid briefings in England.

Katie Rowley, who is in her 30s and from Leeds, took legal action against the Cabinet Office.

Ms Rowley said the Government had breached obligations to make broadcasts accessible to deaf people under equality legislation.

Ministers disputed her claim and lawyers representing the Cabinet Office said it should be dismissed.

Similar briefings by Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, his Scottish counterpart Nicola Sturgeon and from Stormont in Northern Ireland included British Sign Language interpreters on screen.

A judge based in London made a ruling in Ms Rowley’s favour on Wednesday.

Mr Justice Fordham said the absence of any British sign language interpretation for "data briefings" on Sept 21 2020 and Oct 12 2020 constituted "discrimination" against Ms Rowley by "reason of breach" of the "reasonable adjustments duty".

He said damages would be assessed by a judge in a county court.

Mr Justice Fordham said the Government was not "in present or continuing breach".

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "We are pleased that the court ruled our policy of using on-screen British Sign Language interpreters was lawful during the pandemic.  

"Our priority has always been to reach the largest possible audience with important public information and we will continue to ensure that British Sign Language interpretation is made available during Covid-19 briefings."

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