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Row erupts after deaf sisters refused sign language interpreter for One Direction concert at Odyssey Arena Belfast

Two deaf sisters have told of their disappointment that the promoter of a One Direction concert in Belfast will not provide them with a sign language interpreter for the Odyssey Arena event.

Sisters Sara and Lisa Kelly booked tickets for the concert to see the boyband, who are due to arrive in Belfast as part of their On The Road Again tour for three nights in October.

The sisters from Newtownabbey asked for a signer to be provided on stage to help them understand what the band made up of Harry, Liam, Niall and Louis are saying in between the songs.

The One Direction fans explained there can be differing levels of deafness and said that "not every deaf person will not hear everything".

"Some deaf people can hear well if they wear hearing aids, some people are moderately deaf, some people are severely deaf", Lisa told the BBC Stephen Nolan Show.

"I can hear the songs pretty well, I can listen to music, I read the lyrics and connect the lyrics to the sounds that  I hear."

"If it was a noisy place I probably wouldn't hear what you are saying clearly. At a One Direction concert the volume and screaming from the girls makes it really difficult to hear what they are saying.

"In a one to one situation I can cope pretty well and hearing aids help and I would be lip reading you.

Sara said: "I have worn hearing aids all my life. I then went completely deaf in my right ear which was a major struggle for me because I've always loved music and absolutely loved One Direction. I went for cochlear implant surgery to improve the hearing I had.

"It means so much to me to go to this concert."

Initially, they contacted the Odyssey Arena who passed them on to the concert promoter Aiken Promotions who said no to their request in a letter stating that, "it is our considered view that the provision of a signing facility is not appropriate for this kind of performance".

Lisa said: "We asked the Odyssey to provide us with a sign language interpreter so that we would know what the boys were saying in between the songs.

"We know the songs really well, we know the lyrics we can hear those but in that really noisy environment we wouldn't really be confident that we would fully understand what the boys were saying.

"So we asked the Odyssey if they could provide us with an interpreter. They told us no initially, then we replied explaining that could be seen as discrimination. They passed it over to Aiken promotions.

"They told us that they didn't think an interpreter would do a good enough job to translate everything that was being said.

"The venue wasn't appropriate for us to have access to an interpreter. They had to bear in mind they needed to make their provision accessible to everyone and they couldn't do it for us.

"We weren't happy about that, because they are happy to put in ramps for wheelchair users and we were very unhappy."

Sara posted the letter of response from Aiken Promotions on Facebook.

It said: "Aiken Promotions has an obligation to make its events as accessible as possible. We have venues which, in broad terms, have a number of accessibility features, depending on the age and nature of the building.

"It is our considered view that the provision of a signing facility is not appropriate for this kind of performance. There is no possibility of the signer beings places on the stage, and any other location would detract from the usual impact of the performance.

"We do not believe that your suggestion of a signer positioned at any other point can allow you and others to experience both the usual performance of the act and the interpretation by the signer.

"Our information is that even if the set list and lyrics can be provided there is limited prospect of this 'ad-libbing' of the act to be adequately reflected. We understand that some signers can 'dramatize' or 'code' such 'ad-libbing' but it is not always a true reflection of the performer's words.

"We have given your request careful consideration but we believe that we cannot acceded to your request. We will, however, attempt to present you with a set list and the lyrics of the songs, if this is approved by the artist management."

The sisters refuted that the signer would not produce a "true reflection of the performer's words".

Sara said: "Interpreters are trained professionals. They follow a code of conduct. Whatever the boys choose to say the interpreter has to translate what they have said. They will make sure we understand what is being said by use of facial expression, they will convey the joke."

Lisa said: "To be honest, they say they want it to be an inclusive environment for everyone yet they have no place for an interpreter which for me is completely ridiculous.

"I believe they should know better. An interpreter is there to translate what is said.  It's expected, it's part of their job to do that."

In response Aiken Promotions issued a statement saying it will request a copy of the set list and lyrics from the tour production team.

It said: "Aiken Promotions endeavours to meet the needs of patrons as far as possible.

"In relation to the request for Interpretative Services at the forthcoming One Direction concert we consulted widely including with a health and safety consultant, other venues and the Odyssey Arena who we know have consulted with various advisory bodies including Action on Hearing Loss (RNID).

"Advice given is that a signing facility is not appropriate for this performance - it is impractical to provide a signer for pop and rock concerts due to the speed of the songs, positioning the signer and problems communicating when there are rapid changes with low level/ dark lighting effects. 

"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.  

"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.

"Going forward Aiken Promotions is happy to meet with Action on Hearing Loss to discuss accessibility."

Belfast Telegraph