05 Jan About them without them
Photo source: Press-service of the Ministry of Healthcare of Uzbekistan (No sign-language interpreters)
My friend Mamur Akhlidinov is a deaf blogger and author of Uzbekistan Deaf Society Blog and also a first year student at the University of Journalism and Mass Communications in Tashkent. Yesterday he wrote on his Facebook page about a press conference organised by the Ministry of Healthcare on Saturday 4 January on the theme “Special attention to disabled people: procedures for determining disability, social benefits for this category”. The event took place at the conference hall of the Agency of Information and Mass Communications under the administration of the president of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
In his post he indicated that representatives of all registered media were invited to the event and those willing to take part should have informed about their participation in advance. Besides blogging for the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan Mamur aka also writes op-eds on disability rights issues at Sof.uz and he would like to cover the event and ask a couple of questions from the representatives of the Ministry of Healthcare which is a main state body responsible for social protection of disabled people in the country. So he contacted the organisers and asked whether sing language interpretation service would be provided during the press conference about disability issues. He had the following conversation below:
– Do you need a sign language interpreter?
– I would like to attend, but I can not hear.
In a few minutes:
– Sorry. I contacted the Ministry of Healthcare, they said that they do not have a sign language interpreter.
– If the Ministry of Healthcare dedicated a press conference to disabled people, how could their rights not be taken into account?
– The event is for the media only.
– I am also a media representative, a blogger.
– Well, but the Ministry of Healthcare should provide a sign language interpreter, not us, but they don’t have any interpreters.
Mamur aka pointed out that as a matter of fact, both parties should be held accountable for this. Inviting a sign language interpreter is not a problem: one can contact the Society of the Deaf of Uzbekistan. “Holding such an event without participation of disabled people, especially if there is a blogger among them and no reasonable accommodation created for him to receive information – at least it is a humiliation,“ – wrote Mamur aka on Facebook. He added that in developed countries participation of sign language interpreters in such press conferences is mandatory. Recently the Agency of Information and Mass Communications has been doing a lot, but, unfortunately, the elementary things are not always fulfilled.
I would say it is not only humiliation, but discrimination on the basis of disability. If they said the press conference was open only to media representatives the following question arises: “Disabled people can’t be journalists and bloggers?”. Of course what the Ministry of Healthcare cares only about health following purely a medical understanding of disability. Non provision of reasonable accommodation (e.g. sign language interpretation) is a clear discrimination on the basis of disability based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Another question: “Is it possible to hold such kind of press conferences without direct participation of representatives of disabled people’s organisations? Were they invited to this event?” I guess not. As a rule all official press conferences should be interpreted into sign language and have closed captions if aired on TV. But, unfortunately, none of these are currently provided for deaf and hearing impaired people in Uzbekistan.