The first deaf law firm? Practice launches campaign to make legal services accessible

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By Legal Futures

9 August 2011


Hard of hearing: fee-earners learning sign language

A law firm in Blackburn will next week launch a campaign to make legal services more accessible to deaf people as part of its efforts to become what it says is the only law firm in the country for the deaf and hard of hearing (HOH).

Joseph Frasier Solicitors’ “Representing your right to be heard” is the culmination of 18 months’ preparation and will see the firm provide a range of legal services and advice to deaf/HOH people.

The launch of the campaign will see all deaf/HOH charities and organisations provided with the firm’s “Lawcards”, business cards offering 30 minutes of free advice and preferential rates.

The firm is partnering with the charities East Lancashire Deaf Society (which owns the building where it is located) and Deaf Parenting UK, and says it is working towards becoming the first law firm to have the “Louder than words” charter mark from Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the RNID). Joseph Frasier has also recently signed up to the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter.

There are more than nine million deaf and HOH people in the UK. Joseph Frasier founder Saimina Virmani said the drive to act came out of work she did last year for a deaf client and research the firm then did into the problems deaf and HOH people face when trying to access legal services.

The Royal Association for Deaf People has a legal arm, RAD Legal Services, which offers – among other things – what it says is the first will-writing service aimed at British Sign Language users, and is the only organisation that provides legal advice on immigration matters to deaf and HOH people. It has also set up the first deaf law centre, in London.

Ms Virmani said: “The last few months have been a journey for us and we have loved learning about deaf culture. The deaf community is very tightly knit and although we see people who are deaf as being on the outside of our world, the tables have now completely turned and we are on the outside.

“As legal professionals we are trained to use the power of our advocacy and voice but in working with deaf/HOH clients this has essentially been taken away from us.”

She added that the firm is working closely with former British Deaf Association chairman and RNID chief executive Doug Alker.

In preparation for the launch, the firm has installed new technology to make its communications and services more deaf aware, such as webcam, text relay, MSN, text, Skype, Twitter and onsite interpreters. Fee-earners are undergoing British Sign Language courses and a new website will launch next week with access to SignTube for deaf/HOH clients.



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