As the focus this week’s is on the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham (3-6th October). The Conservatives like all political parties are steaming their conferences and announcements live on their website.

However is the failure of ALL parties to make their content accessible to Disabled and Deaf people discriminatory and breaking the Equalities Act 2010 that came into force on 1st October 2010?

This legislation supposedly strengthens equalities legislation and discriminatory practice.

How are Deaf or Hard of hearing people supposed to find out about important announcements if their video content is not subtitled, BSL interpreted or audio described? Certainly we won’t receive this information at the same time (if at all) as non-disabled people. Particularly as important announcements are also expected this week in regards to ‘The Big Society‘.

There are an estimated 50-70,000 Deaf people that use British Sign Language as their first language.  A further 8 million are hard of hearing and 23,000 people are Deaf/Blind.

This is a significant population that is deliberately cut off by the failure of all political parties to consider their access needs when transmitting material digitally.

I was one of a number of bloggers to meet Conservatives Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP International Development Secretary (and the Conservatives ‘Birmingham MP’) on Saturday evening (2nd October 2010).

I asked Andrew Mitchell how they were making their website and material accessible to disabled and deaf people. I was told it was an important issue and asked what work we were doing to address it?

I met two people from their digital team responsible for streaming the content live on their website during the conference – neither knew about how to subtitle or provide BSL interpretation. I even emailed them suggestions and advised them how to make the event more accessible online. Yet nothing has been done.

I’ve discovered also there is no information about Disability access to the Conservative Party conference on their website.

I contacted the Equalities Commission this morning (4th October) to ask where the Conservatives were discriminating under the new Equalities Act for not making their online material accessible and what could I do as I couldn’t watch the proceedings live online?

I was told NO “Broadcasting is outside of the coverage of the Equalities Act 2010′. Shocked? I was.

Yet the Equalities website clearly says:

“Is it all right for service providers to wait until I cannot use their services before making changes?

No. Their duties are anticipatory and continuing. In other words, service providers should be thinking ahead and continually looking at the way they provide services, the physical features of their premises and services, and how they can make improvements for disabled people.”

I was also told that as service providers (e.g. The Conservative Party) they have to make ‘reasonable adjustments for people with a disability’. Confused – I am.

Further searches on the Equalities Commission website I found out that website providers and services are known as a Information Society Service Provider (ISSP). As such they (The Conservatives Party) have responsibilities:

That you make reasonable adjustments to make sure that your website is accessible to disabled people.

My next step, if I wish, is to make a formal complaint to the Conservative Party and wait up to 28 days for a reply.

I cannot expect an instant response as this is dictated by the legislation. By which time the Conservatives Party Conference will be over and we will be focusing on the reality of the cuts being announced. Except for people like me won’t know what happened in the first place.

I’ve been told If I am not happy with the response back I can look to take my complaint further to the County Court. So it may take legal action to force a basic human right to have online information communicated in the means that is accessible from the politicians currently in power.

As The Conservative Party conference “joins together in the national interest”, the actions of political parties not to include us when transmitting digital material shows in that in the 14 years since the Disability Discrimination Act came into force such equalities legislation is not working.