Oath of Allegiance
I (name) swear by Almighty God (or do solemnly and sincerely affirm) that on becoming a British Citizen I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors according to law.
I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British Citizen.
The oath will be sworn before the Registrar or Births, Marriages and Deaths in a ceremony hosted by the local mayor with MPs, celebrities and other dignitaries.
The immediate questions that spring to mind, in the case of Deaf applicants is:
a) there a requirement to say this in English?
b) if this can be signed in their own country signed language, or BSL, who will translate the meaning to the Deaf applicant, so it can be signed appropriately?
c) will funding be provided so that a Deaf applicant can be taught to sign the above?
d) will an interpreter be provided at the ceremony, and will they actually be interpreting appropriately? Or will they be reading from a standard card? Will a relay interpreter be provided?
Another requirement for citizenship is to learn English. English Language will be assessed through the testing of 6 topics. The target will depend on what level of English was present on arrival, and there is a need to show improvement. If fail, then the applicant will be able to re-sit.
Teaching Deaf people English, the usual curriculum requirements do not always fit. For example, sometimes homophones are taught at the start of an Adult Basic Education curriculum.
Homophones focus on words that sound the same, like caught and court, or pair and pear. There are many other examples. Such concepts can be alien to profoundly deaf people, and therefore its inclusion in such a curriculum to teach spelling, will not teach Deaf people English.
Another major concern is over Deaf people’s access to suitable specialised English courses, which is likely to be an issue under the dispersal system. Dispersal, as already touched upon, will not make specialist courses for Deaf people viable because of low concentration of numbers.
Communication support in Education usually takes place via Commuication Support Workers or Educational Interpreters. Natural questions lie around whether these persons will have the competency in respect of language skills, and whether communication or interpretation is a step far enough. Access to the teaching of English can go beyond purely working in 2 languages or more.
Trying to fit Deaf people into the same box is in effect discriminatory, and policy wise does not achieve intended outcomes, and policy in this area should be revised, or the very least, built upon.
Topics that must be covered in respect of Learning about Britain include: where to obtain help; employment; utilities; law; Multi Cultural Society; Institutions
a) Will there be suitably qualified interpreters to allow Deaf applicants to access this education programme?
b) Will interpreters be familiar with the Deaf person’s home country sign language?
c) It is current practice for Commuication Support Workers to be used in Further Education, and will these members of staff have sufficient skills to commuicate? Will there be a recogition by education providers of the role of Deaf Relay Interpreters?
The Learning about Britain component is very much focused on mainstream services, and whilst I am supportive of inclusion, the fact remains that Deaf people are significantly marginalised within society. Therefore, to give a Deaf person information about where to obtain help, is going to be a fruitless and pointless exercise unless this is backed up with information on the Disability Discrimination Act and their legal right to an interpreter (as many mainstream service providers will be clueless); and/or information on specialist services for Deaf people. Eg, specialist advice services, where they can gain information direct in a signed language.
The above programme is likely not to be comprehensive enough for Deaf people in the sense that it assumes a lot of prior rights. A Deaf applicant may
not be accustomed to being treated as an equal citizen, full access may be an alien concept for them, therefore to expect this to just happen automatically is pointless. It is not something that a short course can tackle either, and should be encouraged longer term via advocacy. Such an option cannot be compulsory, this could effectively be asking more of Deaf
applicants (and be construed as discrimination), but the option should certainly be developed. I see this as being a partnership between statutory services, education providers and Deaf people.