To avoid Gove's fate, ROF has signed a summary of this story.

A lawyer who specialises in Covid-related claims has defeated the government after his deaf client sued Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.

Chris Fry, of Fry Law, acted for Katie Rowley after she complained that two of the government's briefings, on 21 September and 12 October 2020, were not accompanied by on-screen interpreters.

Rowley said the omission left her stressed and affected her wellbeing, and that she was unable to use subtitles because she has dyslexia.

"I am a slow reader, so that means when I was reading the subtitles, I would miss so much information and [it] would just mess up my head. It would be so difficult - it became impossible", she told the BBC.

Mr Justice Fordham said the provision of only subtitles "was a failure of inclusion, suggestive of not being thought about, which served to disempower, to frustrate and to marginalise".

Finding against the government, he said Rowley's damages would be assessed by the county court.

Fry said the "significant judgment” ensured that the Cabinet Office “must ask itself, 'Where is the interpreter?' as part of its planning for its broadcasts". He added that another 260 cases relating to the lack of on-screen interpreters were being lined up against the government. 

The disability lawyer has found a fruitful seam of work in the pandemic, although his niche has attracted some controversy. In February, RollOnFriday revealed how Covid conspiracy cranks who claimed that vaccines could kill had announced a team-up with Fry to fight employers who required staff to wear masks or get vaccinated.

Fry distanced himself from 'Power to the People UK', telling RollOnFriday his relationship was limited to referrals from the group of people who had proven their disability "but still been refused access, often in a humiliating and degrading way".

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Context 30 July 21 09:05

For context, the average English reading age of a deaf person leaving school in the UK remains around 8-9 years - due to decades of lack of funding for specialist education for deaf children in the state system, and the way reading/writing was taught for a long time.

Many in the deaf comminity use British sign language as a first language and manage to just about get by with a very rudimentary grasp of English but will struggle with things like the news.

There is a similar literacy gap in the US and many other countries.

This is why subtitles were not appropriate/sufficient for the Covid briefings. 

Anonymous 30 July 21 09:26

Sure, understood. But does she really need compensation for missing out on two briefings in real time? 

With the country on its knees for years to come, charities collapsing by the day, the overseas aid budget being slashed, NHS workers being offered derisory pay rises, people living out of food banks etc etc. Is this a just and reasonable spend of what little remains of taxpayers’ cash?

And presumably paying Mr Fry’s fees for bringing this case. Unless he’s acted pro bono, of course. 

Just for context…

Anonymous 30 July 21 09:37

The worst kind of ambulance chasing.


Now all of us will have to suffer the sight of a fatty doing a bizarre version of the hokey-kokey in the bottom right of the screen when we're just trying to concentrate on what the science guys are saying. 

What's next? We have to do the whole thing in smell-o-vision for the benefit of the blind?

Anonymous 30 July 21 13:37

Have to say that I’m a bit shocked by some of the comments on this post. It doesn’t matter what the level of compensation was - which is probably low - it seems very likely that this is not why the case was brought by this woman. It is to shine a light on the fact that it was an actual disgrace that the govt completely failed to provide interpreters for deaf people, for really important public health messaging. There were huge campaigns about this at the start of the pandemic but the govt completely ignored it, so they had a chance to fix this if they wanted to. This is done by other countries in these situations, but not us. How does that make disabled / deaf people feel? There has been a total failure of inclusion, despite all the millions spent on that ridiculous new briefing room which doesn’t even have level access either. It is cases like this which will hopefully now prompt the govt/decision makers in future to actually ensure proper access for ALL. A good example of the law working for the good. 

Anonymous 30 July 21 14:06

"it was an actual disgrace that the govt completely failed to provide interpreters for deaf people"

Yeah, right on!

Totally outrageous to imagine that the deaf people watching would also be able to read, and that they could therefore use the easily available subtitling to follow along.

It's just not on to assume that the kind of person who thinks they'll be able to receive useful information from a daily government briefing on the prevalence of disease is able to read at an elementary level.

Worse still, they had the temerity to suppose that people who found reading along in real-time difficult might take it upon themselves to go and read the daily update, published for free each day online, at whatever relaxed pace they saw fit. Literal fascism.

This is yet another story of the government being derelict in its duty to treat us all as helpless infantilised jellies who need to have precise step-by-step instructions for every single element of our lives literally poured down our helpless gaping throats, or else we will be unable to take any independent functions and will immediately fall down pathetically in the middle of the road unable to help ourselves. Whereupon our eyes will be pecked out by chiffchaffs that we are helpless to repel without state assistance and we will die miserable and alone.


Anonymous 30 July 21 17:03

To anonymous at 14.06

your comment clearly comes from somebody who has never experienced issues with access as a disabled person - well lucky you. Perhaps if you walked in somebody else’s shoes you would think differently. 

Providing BSL interpreters is such a low cost and easy way of ensuring that people with hearing difficulties can listen to government updates in real time. Subtitles are not accurate and often just come out as nonsense on a screen.

We live in a first world country in the 21st century. Providing reasonable adjustments and ways of avoiding discrimination is part of our law, regardless of your backwards views. The government therefore needs to comply with it. 

Anonymous 30 July 21 18:31

@ anonymous 09.37

"Now all of us will have to suffer the sight of a fatty doing a bizarre version of the hokey-kokey in the bottom right of the screen when we're just trying to concentrate on what the science guys are saying. 

"What's next? We have to do the whole thing in smell-o-vision for the benefit of the blind?"


Just wow....unless you're being sarcastic.  This is offensive for so many reasons.

Northern guru 30 July 21 22:15

How does one sign in Nothen then anyway? Ay up. And no, I didn’t miss the r. It’s Nothen. As in Northern, without a Southerm axint. 

Anonymous 02 August 21 10:44

Why isn't a sign language interpreter a standard part of all televised speaches by mebers of the Goverment?

No offence 03 August 21 21:40

Many of the messages in this thread appear to be total virtue signalling. Thankfully it means RoF deaf community will be able to identify the woke brigade.... and stay well clear of their sanctimonious fun-spoiling antics  

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