In 2016, EUD took a significant step by submitting a petition – no. 1056/2016 – to the EU Parliament, advocating for the full right to political participation for the deaf community. With this petition, EUD aims to ensure the tabling of petitions in all 30 EU national sign languages.
However, the Petitions (PETI) committee did not make any progress on this petition for a number of years. It was only in 2020 that any progress was made when the PETI committee gave the President of the EU Parliament until January 2021 to allow for the tabling of petitions in national sign languages of the EU. Once again, however, the petition remained at a standstill until this year – 2023. Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Mr Ádám Kósa, raised this issue in his work with the EU Parliament Disability Intergroup. Following this and additional efforts from EUD, on 29th November, EUD was invited to make an intervention about this petition at a PETI Committee hearing in the EU Parliament. What’s more, this hearing took place during the EU Parliament’s first ever Disability Rights Week.
During this hearing, EUD Executive Director, Mr Mark Wheatley, renewed EUD’s call to modify the rules of procedure within the EU Parliament, officially enabling the submission of petitions in every national sign language used within the EU. Mr Wheatley stressed that national sign languages are fully-fledged natural languages that have the same linguistic properties as all the other EU spoken languages. He also stated that the EU, as a State Party to the CRPD, must enable accessibility of information and communication in national sign languages as laid down in its articles 9 and 21. It is the only way to guarantee equal access to the petition’s procedure to European deaf citizens.
Furthermore, practically speaking, Mr Wheatley explained that the EP Petitions Portal is already technically equipped to accept multiple file types, including audio/visual formats, showcasing the absence of any technical barrier to submit petitions as video files in sign languages.
At the end of the meeting, the Chair of the PETI Committee, announced the decision of the Committee to keep this petition open. EUD will continue to work with the PETI committee, and the EU Parliament Disability Intergroup to work towards implementing this petition. Deaf people must be granted equal participation as EU citizens.