Signature’s Letter to the Tele re: NI Bill of Rights

NI Bill of Rights needed to protect the most vulnerable
Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Dear Editor,

Human Rights are universal, and we will all benefit, both individually
and as a society, from the proposed Bill of Rights for Northern

A strong and inclusive Bill of Rights is needed to ensure protection
for the most vulnerable in our society. Deaf people are amongst those
who are most isolated in our society, particularly when it comes to

The Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) School leavers
survey in 2006 showed that 48.4 percent of hearing impaired pupils
attain five or more GCSE’s compared to 64.4 percent of their hearing
peers, and 30.8 percent of hearing impaired pupils attain two or more
A level’s compared to 44.8 percent of their hearing peers.

We also send many deaf 11-year-olds to schools in Dublin or England to
pursue their education. What right to family life do they have if they
cannot access an education to suit their needs and ability here in
Northern Ireland and are forced to live apart from family?

What choices does a deaf student have in terms of employment and
training if, for example, their range of subjects at GCSE or A Level
is limited to when an Interpreter or Communication Support Worker
might be available? Deaf students have to study whichever subjects are
available, whereas their hearing peers can chose those which best
match their future career or training aspirations.

A strong framework of rights for all, which provides protection for
the most vulnerable, is the mark of a civilised society, and one which
can allow all its citizens to prosper, flourish and achieve their
potential. The advice on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland handed
over from the Human Rights Commission to the Secretary of State in
December 2008 had the capacity to deliver that.

The response to the Commission’s advice by the Northern Ireland Office
contained within their current consultation document is weak,
unacceptable and will do little to enhance the rights of the most
vulnerable in society.

The Northern Ireland Office tasked the Human Rights Commission to
provide them with advice on a Bill of Rights. They should now listen
to that advice and bring forward legislation to give us the strong and
inclusive Bill of Rights that the people of Northern Ireland deserve.

Pam Tilson, Communications Manager for Signature Northern Ireland