To Whom It May Concern,
On behalf of the ‘Tree House’ group (a blog and a diverse Facebook group of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people) I would like to express my concern and protest against the recent decision to close the electronic notetaking courses at the City Lit. I hereby request you to revoke this decision for the reasons stated below.
I was due to commence the electronic notetaking course at the City Lit this Monday, 23rd June, but I was informed only one week before the start of the course that it was to be cancelled. The reasons for the cancellation at such short notice were cited as being due to a major restructuring at the City Lit as a result of government cuts, which were affecting all courses for language service professionals.
I would like to highlight why I believe this decision will have a serious long-term detrimental impact on the ability of deaf and hard of hearing people to access the courses that they need to study, improve their career prospects and access the workplace.
The number one reason that deaf and hard of hearing people quote for their choice of a place to study is access, followed in second place by the choice of course. Having access to the right communication support in the form of an electronic notetaker is essential to many deaf and hard of hearing students, who do not use BSL and therefore require a professional electronic notetaker to support them. I have a personal interest in this because my husband has become recently deafened after being hearing all his life. Last year, he required the support of two electronic notetakers in order for him to access his course in Health & Social Care at the City Lit. He has also done several other courses with the support of electronic notetakers. Without them, he simply would not have been able to do those courses.
Unfortunately, access to communication support for deaf and hard of hearing people is already very limited. I understand that there are only 30-40 qualified notetakers in the whole of the UK. With the closure of this course at the City Lit, there will now only be one centre in the whole of the UK, in Manchester, which will offer a similar course. Unfortunately, for people like myself who live in London or elsewhere in the country, being offered to do this course running over five weeks in Manchester is simply not an option.
Therefore, in future there will be even fewer qualified notetaking professionals in the UK to provide the communication support that deaf and hard of hearing people need, particularly in London and the South East.
For deaf and hard of hearing students, having very limited access to qualified and experienced electronic notetakers to support them with their studies, in addition to having cuts being made to their Disability Support Allowance (DSA) from 2015 onwards, will inevitably mean that they will not be able to pursue their studies, enter the workforce and become fully integrated into our society. Who will then provide the “reasonable adjustments” that they need to conform to the Equalities Act 2010 if not the colleges?
I am certain that the government did not anticipate that instead of being empowered deaf, hard of hearing and other disabled people would be reduced to a life of dependency and benefits though lack of access to education and failure to provide “reasonable adjustments” to support their learning needs. The domino effect of this decision to close the electronic notetaking course is therefore potentially catastrophic for many future students, as well as reducing the availability of key qualified communication support workers even further.
For all these reasons above, on behalf of the ‘Tree House’ members I urge you to reconsider your decision to close the electronic notetaking courses at the City Lit.
(On behalf of The ‘Tree House’ blog and Facebook group – a group with over 500 members).