What does the Scottish referendum mean for deaf people?

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

Katie Rafferty, Policy and Campaigns Officer Scotland

On Thursday 18 September people living in Scotland will enter polling stations all over the country to answer one simple yet profound question: should Scotland be an independent country?

The responsibility that comes with such a monumental decision is resting heavily on the shoulders of voters. Staying up to date on the important issues could be considered a full-time occupation for those with a particular sense of civic duty: currency, EU membership, oil, pensions and Strictly Come Dancing have all, rightly, been hotly debated. Preparing to make an informed decision in September is a serious business.

But how easy has it been for deaf voters to get the information they need? And how inclusive have those on the campaign trail been: have they met and engaged with deaf people?

Some deaf people have praised campaigners and the Scottish Government for the steps they’ve taken to ensure access to the debate for everyone. They’ve pointed to the BSL version of the Government’s White Paper and the politicians who have got involved in the Sign for Scotland campaign.

Recently though, deaf voters have criticised both sides of the campaign for neglecting their needs and failing to inform and engage this section of the population. The BBC found that only 29 copies of the signed version of the Scottish Government’s White Paper have been distributed, which does suggest far more could be done to engage deaf voters.

Andy Kerr, Chief Executive at Sense Scotland agrees, and feels that voters with communication needs have been involved in the debate nowhere nearly enough. With 44 days to go, it’s time for campaigners on both sides to fill the gaps and ensure they are reaching all voters.

This Referendum will decide the future of Scotland, but it is historic for another reason too. For the first time 16 and 17 years olds are eligible to vote and will have their voices heard. Whether they are thinking aye, naw or mibbe, this is an amazing opportunity for young people to get politically active and help decide Scotland’s future.

Every vote counts and the outcome will affect us all, so if you are going to be 16 or 17 on the day of the Referendum, or if you know someone who will, encourage them to get registered and have their say.

Whether we vote yes or no on 18 September, there is no hiding the fact that the political face of the United Kingdom is evolving. We might not have a crystal ball into the future, but that won’t stop us speculating what these changes might bring. Look out for a couple more blogs coming soon when we’ll explore the post ‘yes’ and post ‘no’ vote scenarios in turn, thinking about the potential impact for deaf children, young people and their families.

To have your say on how accessible the debate has been so far complete this survey.

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