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The deaf sisters in equality battle for interpreter at Oee Direction gig

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 19/05/2015

Lisa and Sara Kelly at Stormont
Lisa and Sara Kelly at Stormont
Harry Styles of One Direction

Two deaf sisters have met the First and Deputy First Minister after a row erupted over a major concert organiser refusing to arrange an interpreter for a One Direction show in Belfast.

Sara and Lisa Kelly from Newtownabbey are campaigning for equal access for the hearing-impaired community.

They spoke out after a row with Aiken Promotions when they booked tickets for the concert by the boyband, who will perform in Belfast's Odyssey Arena for three nights in October.

The sisters said they can hear the songs, but needed an interpreter to follow what the group are saying between songs.

The request was initially refused by the Odyssey and was passed on to Aiken Promotions, which said while it "endeavours to meet the needs of patrons as far as possible" it could not meet the sisters' request.

"The patrons' tickets for this sold-out show are standing and therefore it is not possible to position a statically lit interpreter where the patrons can comfortably see the show and the interpreter," a spokeswoman for Aiken said. "However, acknowledging that we have an obligation to make a reasonable adjustment we have offered to request a copy of the set list and lyrics from the tour production team and provide these to the patron."

The sisters said they felt discriminated against, but faced criticism from callers to the Nolan Show, who described them as "spoiled brats".

Speaking in response through an interpreter, Lisa (20), an assistant youth support worker at Action Deaf Youth, told the Belfast Telegraph: "It just shows the lack of awareness. They don't realise how interpreters work."

Sara (18), who is studying health and social care at the Northern Regional College, added: "The main thing we want to get from this is raising that awareness and making things more accessible for the deaf community. At the end of the day we are not asking for the world here.

"In America they provide interpreters for various concerts.

"If it is not an issue there, why is it a problem here? "

Lisa explained why an interpreter at the concert would make a difference for people with hearing difficulties.

"It is not the songs and aspect of the song, it is all the other extra things," she said.

"When they are saying: 'Hello Belfast', and what they say through the concert, we don't get any of that and we felt it was important for us to have access to that information like anyone else at the concert."

The sisters were speaking as they attended an event yesterday involving deaf charities to launch a new initiative - The Coalition On Deafness - at Stormont.

It is hoped it will transform the lives of people who are deaf, deaf and blind, have a hearing loss or tinnitus.

During the event, jointly organised by charity Action On Hearing Loss, they both met Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

Action On Hearing Loss said it would like to meet with Aiken Promotions to discuss the issue of equal access at concerts.

Aiken Promotions said it was "happy to meet with Action On Hearing Loss to discuss accessibility".

Belfast Telegraph

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