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Equality Act - Need a sign language interpreter

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I tried to make an appointment with a very large national chain of well known opticians who offer laser eye surgery.


As I'm profoundly deaf with a speech impairment I use sign language to communicate. With something as important as my eyes I would like to get the full facts with regard to the options of having laser eye surgery.


I asked for a BSL interpreter and they said they would contact head office and get back to me. They have come back to me and said that it's not something that they provide and I would be responsible for providing my own interpreter and advised it would cost approx £80 - £150

They suggested perhaps bringing in a family member or a friend to speak for me.


The latter is not possible as I do not have any local family and my friends are also deaf and sign language users.


Are they required to provide an interpreter under the Equality Act under reasonable adjustment for auxiliary aids and services?


A pen and paper would not be reasonable adjustment for me as BSL (British Sign Language) is my first language and has a different grammatical structure to written English. This post is being written on my behalf by someone else.


Any advice would be gratefully received.

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they have offered the service of someone to interpret. There is no obligation for this to be free. The law says that reasonable adjustments should be made so what is reasonable?

If German was your first language would you expect an interpreter be provided for free? Argument about grammatical structure wont help you gain the help for free so go back to them and ask them if they have previous customers in your area with the same impairment and what they did at the time to make accommodations.

Do you work? If so could somone you have a professional relationship with be able to assist at a mutually convenient time.

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I'm sorry but in what capacity are you offering this advice?


You cannot compare this to a German asking for a translator.

Deafness is a disability, I cannot suddenly learn to hear or learn to speak (believe me I wish I could) if I were a wheelchair user reasonable adjustment would be to provide a ramp to gain access. If I were blind then braille print may be offered. In any case the blind man or the wheelchair user will have full access to the information based on the fact they can hear and speak.


An excerpt from the CAB on the Equality Act states:


"Should you have to pay for the adjustments?


The Equality Act says you should never be asked to pay for the adjustments."


By your reckoning, if I went to the cinema and asked for reasonable adjustments to be made so I could watch a film, in the form of displaying subtitles, the cinema agreeing to display them, as long as I paid for them to be transcribed and for the technology to display them. That's reasonable adjustment?


In any case they have not offered an interpreter, if you read my post, they have stated they do not offer an interpreter and that I will be responsible for providing my own. In short they have not offered any form of adjustment to enable me to access the information and to understand the procedure of the eye surgery.


And no I do not have anyone that I work with in a professional capacity that is qualified to interpret, but even if I did I would not want someone I work with attending a personal and private appointment.

Would you want your workmate coming with you to a private doctors appt or to see the bank to discuss a loan because you're struggling in debt?


The Equality Act was created so that disabled people, amongst other minorities are given equal access to public services as their able bodied counterparts are.

Edited by endorfin
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I don't think you will get far with this and your argument of comparing an interpreter to a ramp is fairly stupid.


A reasonable adjustment would be to provide a written report, asking a company of whatever size to provide a £150 interpreter for a consultation that will cost £20-30 (if you are not receiving the consultation for free) is not reasonable, thus they would not be expected to do it.

It is easier to enter a rich man than for a camel to pass a needle

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Hi Endorfin,


I agree with you to date. Disabled people are not required to pay for RA's under the Act. The onus is on the service provider.


The question of its being reasonable is an entirely different matter. The £150 is not compared in the context of the cost of the consultation, or even the cost of the treatment, but in the context of the resources available to them, so I would have thought it is reasonable in principle (note: so little case law makes this a guesstimate).


Having said that, if you are going to pay for the actual surgery, you might find forcing them to pay for the interpreter just gets loaded back into the bill for the actual treatment. More importantly, I guess you would need an interpreter for the actual treatment before and aftercare so just thinking aloud - perhaps pay for it in consultation, get a fixed quote for the treatment and then request they provide the interpreter for the before and aftercare which will no doubt cost a lot more. This way, they wont be able to lump the cost in with the treatment?



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  • 8 months later...

Just an update on this.


I'm afraid that most of the information given here is wrong.


The opticians ended up agreeing to provide an interpreter for the day of the appointment. On the morning of the appointment I received a text saying that there would not be an interpreter and I had to bring my own. You cannot agree to provide one, then withdraw it just 3 hours before I was due to attend.


I exchanged some emails with their legal dept and they agreed that under the Equality Act they were required to make reasonable adjustment, which in this case mean providing an interpreter


Another appointment was made and the interpreter attended the appointment. Having an interpreter there made me realise that it would have been simply impossible for it to be done without one. Pen and paper would not have been possible as I would not have been able to read it without my glasses/contacts as the opticians was putting all kinds of drops in my eyes. Lights were switched off too in order for the tests to be carried out so again would not have been able to read pen and paper to follow instructions but there was enough dim light to see the interpreter. There was vital information that had to be relayed such as not being able to drive for some time afterwards (the drops dilate your pupils so much that you're blinded when you go outside)


Interestingly, the interpreter was the same one that was booked for the original appointment that was cancelled. They informed her that the customer (me) had changed their mind at the last minute (a complete lie). They were still required to pay for the interpreter's time anyway as there was not enough notice in the cancellation.


They also agreed to pay for an interpreter for any subsequent pre op appointments and for the operation appt itself but not for any post care appts.


In response to marmacc's comment about them loading the costs onto the bill, this isn't correct, for them to do this would be illegal. The cost of the operations are fixed and I had the same access to offers as anyone else (I still continued to receive offers via email of increasing amounts, £500, £750, £1000 off as time went on)


In the end, I decided not to go ahead with it. It turned out not to be what I had expected, it seems that the operation fixes each eye at different distances such as the left for far and the right for near and the brain compensates. This isn't what I had envisioned (pun not intended!) with laser eye surgery. They suggested in the future that if I wanted more 20/20 vision then I could go for natural lens replacement which is like it sounds, removing your old natural lens and replacing with a new artificial lens but the optician said I was not a suitable candidate for this at this present time as my lens were healthy but perhaps in the distant future when they have deteriorated.


In conclusion, I could not have attended this appointment and received all the necessary information using pen and paper, there was far too much information as well as the conditions making it impossible.



If I had been attending an appointment for a £10 haircut then of course I would not think it reasonable, or even necessary for an interpreter but when it comes to an operation on my eyes (which as a deaf person, are my most precious possession) costing anything between £4,000 - £6,000 then I don't think it's unreasonable for the service provider to provide access to enable me to be in full possession of the facts for what could be a life changing decision.

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