Sign Language Legislation at European Level by dr. Ádám Kósa Member of the European Parliament Chair of the Disability Intergroup DCAL, University College London, 08.03.2012. On the topic Sign languages in the EU MSs Structure of the EU (short overview) About the European Parliament European Disability Strategy Sign language act in Hungary INI report on mobility and inclusion of PwD On the European Union Since 1952 many treaties have been shaping the European-wide cooperation in economic, social as well political issues Since 1992 (Treaty of Maastrich) we call this cooperation European Union Today: the EU is partly an intergovernmental cooperation, partly binding integration among the European nations There are 27 members of the EU, Iceland and Croatia are about join EU institutions (diagram) On the institutions of the EU European Commission European Council (NOT: Council of Europe!) European Parliament European Court of Justice European Court of Auditors Status of Sign Languages in EU • Sign Language mentioned in the constitution – Austria, Finland, Hungary, Portugal • Sign Language mentioned in a language act or similar – Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden • Sign Language mentioned in other acts or legal documents – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, UK • Sign Language formally recognized by the government or parliament – Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK European Union and sign language Resolution of the European Parliament on sign languages for deaf people (1988) 6. Calls upon Community institutions to set an example by making provision, as a matter of principle for sign language interpretation at meetings organised under their auspices and attended by deaf people;’ Resolution of the European Parliament on sign languages (1998) ‘8. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that public meetings organised by EU institutions are accessible to deaf people by providing a sign language interpretation service on request;’ ‘11. Calls on the Commission to introduce measures to ensure universal design in multimedia applications so that deaf people are not excluded from new applications;’ Why is the EP important to us? We can be at the legislation of the EU Big public attention and new contacts Increasing the activity of the European Commission Gearing up the adoption of the UN Convention on rights of people with disabilities as well as sign languages Political message: „Nothing about us, without us” What has the EP already practically done? • To me as the first deaf MEP the EP ensured financially the sign language interpreters • Provided me with lighting indicator (lamp) in my office in Strasbourg • I can bring free of charge my interpreters • I received the largest MEP office for having the interpreters to be at my disposal What has the EP already legally done? • two res on sign language in 1988 and 1998 (mentioned earlier) • res. in 1995 on the human rights of disabled people, • res. in 1996 on the Rights of Disabled People, • res. In 1997 on equality of opportunity for people with disabilities, • resolution of 23 June 2003 on Towards a United Nations legally binding instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities • Resolution on EU2020 with expressed reference to disabled workers Oral question to the EU Commissioner in December 2009 The aim: the EU should have a common standard for professional cooperation and services based on the fundamental policies of the EU on anti-discrimination and free movement. (question and answer by the EU Commissioner on language diversity: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+QT+H-2009-0460+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN Background of the oral question • the High Level Group on Multilingualism made numerous recommendations on multilingualism. It stressed that multilingualism also extended to sign languages. • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Article 30 of which includes the following provision: 'Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.' Question „Bearing in mind the Flensburg Recommendations of 2000, which refer inter alia to sign languages, what will the Commission do to promote the recognition of sign languages and their appropriate use in the European Institutions?” Answer by the Commission to oral question „According to Article 165 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union it is the responsibility of the Member States to put into practice at national and regional level concrete measures to promote language policy, and this applies likewise to the recognition of sign languages.” „However, if the use of sign language becomes necessary to enable deaf people to access employment, career advancement or training, the issue could possibly fall under the scope of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.” United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities what does it say in general? Article 8 - Awareness-raising 1. States Parties undertake to adopt immediate, effective and appropriate measures: a) To raise awareness throughout society, including at the family level, regarding persons with disabilities, and to foster respect for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities; Measures to this end include: b) Fostering at all levels of the education system, including in all children from an early age, an attitude of respect for the rights of persons with disabilities; d) Promoting awareness-training programmes regarding persons with disabilities and the rights of persons with disabilities. What does the UN Convention say on accessibility? Article 9 – Accessibility 2. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures to: e) Provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public; And there are articles on education, sport, leisure time, etc… What does the UN Convention say on access to information? Article 21 - Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information b) Accepting and facilitating the use of sign languages, Braille, augmentative and alternative communication, and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice by persons with disabilities in official interactions; Article 2 – Definitions: "Language" includes spoken and signed languages and other forms of non spoken languages; Why difficult to develop and harmonise? - There is no reliable data and comparable pieces of information on the national practices and structures; - There is no interchangeablility between educational levels and (with) national sign languages also differ from one another; - There is no adopted and formalised international sign language interpreters’ education. Hungary is a good example in legislation 1. The new law on the rights of people with communication disabilities focusing on sign language and sign language interpreters’ services means a new and serious impetus; 2. Strong co-operation and close partnership between civil organizations, political parties, service providers and media; 3. Within the self-advocacy organizations basic sign language courses are provided; 4. Since SINOSZ alone maintains 12 centres for sign language interpreters’ in the country, in many counties the so-called self-advocacy activities and services are in harmony. 2009 Act on the Hungarian Sign Language and the use of Hungarian Sign Language • World’s most complex sign langauge law • Sign Language recognised as a language in its own right • Guarantees interpretation services • Makes it compulsory to educate Deaf children in sign language or bilingually • Provides equal access to public services • A sign language interpreter is to be provided during criminal proceedings • Amending the Radio and Television Broadcasting Act by specifying how many hours should be interpreted to sign language (e.g. 4 hours per day in 2011) New European Disability Strategy (EDS) - Adopted on 15.11.2010 - It’s complementary - Adopted action programme till 2015 - Based on MSs’ competencies - 8 priority: 5th Priority – education and training • „Increase knowledge on education levels and opportunities of people with disabilities” • „Support policy developments towards the goal of inclusive and quality education and training within the framework of the Youth on the move initiative „ • „Increase the mobility of people with disabilities through enhancing their participation in the Lifelong Learning Programme and the Youth in Action Programme” INI report on mobility and inclusion of PwD 1/2 • Civil and human rights • The importance of data collection and consultation with stakeholder • Demographic changes and a barrierfree environment • Free movement and barrier-free services • Equal opportunities • Investing in people with disabilities • Lifestyles • The fight against poverty INI report on mobility and inclusion of PwD 2/2 Some new and innovative aims: • • • • • • • Stresses the importance of research into new therapeutic methods which further facilitate the integration of people with disabilities into society; calls on the Commission and the Member States to guarantee their rights and take measures to improve their quality of life by providing, inter alia, access to practical information on everyday issues, including by familiarising them with skills-building procedures and services which have an impact on family life Urges the Commission to take the necessary measures to help the visually impaired to carry out business transactions; Calls on the Commission to increase efforts to achieve individually-tailored navigation-based services for the blind and those with serious visual impairments; Calls on the Commission and the Council to improve access for people with disabilities in the field of copyright; Calls on the Commission to prepare a study with people with visual impairments in mind analysing the characteristics of the digital displays (interfaces) of industrial and domestic products and alternative, equivalent information solutions for blind people; Calls on the Member States and Commission to recognise sign language as an official language in the Member States; notes that the Member States should therefore work towards the possibility of such a recognition, in accordance with the Brussels Declaration of 19 November 2010 General conclusions - MEPs should focus on European Employment Strategy and the relevant flagship initiatives of EU2020; - MEPs may follow the consultations on National Reform Programmes with special regard to people with disabilities - MEPs should care about the disabled people without skills needed in an innovative world regarding the disadvantages of globalisation - More attention should be paid to following the programmes of the European Social Fund and European Regional and Development Fund and their future Alone or together? Lack of awareness on rights is a feature of the deaf and hard of hearing community? Does it explain a communication blockage in the background? The answer is clear: ONLY TOGETHER! The majority of people with disabilities cannot stand up for their rights Defending rights can be successful without partners or how much can a lonely stakeholder be successful? Thank you for your attention!