News10th April 2015

Simeon Hart, Campaigning to be the first Deaf BSL user MP

Standing for election representing the Green Party, the Commons needs better Deaf awareness

by Sarah Lawrence

Here at SLFirst we try to be non-political, but when we learned that a friend of the magazine - Simeon Hart, was standing for parliament in the forthcoming General Election we had to find out more. Simeon is only the second Deaf BSL user to be a Parliamentary candidate and the only one standing this time around.

For those of you who tuned into BDA’s General Election Question Time a few days ago, you will know that Simeon is a Green Party candidate. With a keen interest in politics since his mid-teens, Simeon found there were many barriers to Deaf people entering the political arena. Finding a way to gain entry, Simeon has previously put himself forward for election in the local elections in Liverpool Central in 2012 and in Princes Park in 2013. On both occasions he missed out to the Labour candidate but with a significantly improved number of votes.

Standing in this year’s General Election is down to the guiding role of David Buxton from the BDA. “We were discussing the BDA's General Election Question Time,” Simeon explained, “and David asked me why I wasn’t going to stand for election for the Green Party. Having joined the Green Party in 2008 and campaigned on their behalf before, I gave his comments some thought and contacted the Green Party to see if there were any vacancies within constituencies where I could stand.”

“I was given the list of vacancies in the North West and then I emailed to some of those constituencies to see if they were willing to have me to stand for them. Oldham West and Royton was the first to contact me and asked me to apply. Since then we have communicated well and last Tuesday after hustings and votes, I was told that they were in favour of me standing as a parliamentary candidate.”

Unlike lots of current and prospective MPs, Simeon has years of experience in the ‘real world’, experiences that undoubtedly give him knowledge and understanding about the everyday issues that people face. In fact, his journey from school to election candidate could not be more in contrast with the majority of the MPs we have today.

“On leaving school, I moved around exploring the world,” Simeon told me. “I worked in computer companies but I found the work a bit depressing so I decided to try other areas such as art and education (as Deaf instructor) before moving to the Philippines through Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). I was the first profoundly Deaf and BSL user to be selected to work in a developing country. Working in the Philippines was the best experience of my life! It was there that I learned and came to understand about their poverty and culture. Now, I am running my small business and work part time at the International Institute of Sign Language and Deaf Studies (iSLanDS) at the University of Central Lancashire. I also work as a visiting lecturer at Liverpool Hope University and University of Chester.”

​Concerned that people will see his deafness first and not his ability, Simeon has taken a lot of heart from the support of people in the UK and wider afield. Campaigning since joining the Green Party for better access for Deaf people, Simeon recently launched the Deaf Green Party Facebook Group, and he is enthused by the support he has received through that. Realistic about many people’s judgement of him based on his deafness Simeon is intent on proving to people that ‘Deaf Can Do’, and that includes the work a Member of Parliament does. 

Selecting the Green Party because of their philosophy and commitment to equality for all, Simeon believes that Green Party members have empathy for people, something which he considers is often lacking in members of other parties. Already out on the campaigning trail, Simeon’s has plans to make people aware of who he is and what he stands for. With much hard work ahead, Simeon will be covering many miles within Oldham West and Royton, handing out leaflets, visiting local schools, attending events and meeting with community groups.

Whether Simeon does become the first ever Deaf BSL using MP or not, Simeon believes strongly that the Deaf community will benefit from having Deaf MP’s. He believes that modern and progressive politics is now needed not the old traditional politics that many people would argue is out of touch with the average man and woman on the street.

I asked Simeon specifically what he thought the three greatest issues were for Deaf people in the UK today. Giving it some thought, Simeon said, “Firstly, the right to have BSL as their official language like Gaelic, Welsh and Cornish. Secondly, Access to Work needs to be changed, including the removal of the CAP. Finally, Employment, Education and Public services must be improved for Deaf people, for example access to information, employment and education. We also need to remove inclusive education for deaf children as inclusive education isn't working for many deaf children.”

Regardless of any political opinion, I am delighted that Simeon is standing in the election, and I would like to wish him every success. Through deeds not words, Simeon has impressed me with his work in and support of the Deaf community and many individuals and should he be successful, I have no doubt he will be able to make an even greater contribution for the benefit of Deaf and other disabled people.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / News

10th April 2015