Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Services have jointly signed up to the British Sign Language (BSL) Charter.
Signing the Charter together is a show of commitment by all three Services to promote better access to public services for members of the Deaf community.
The British Deaf Association are asking local and national organisations from across the public, private and voluntary sector to sign up to the Charter and work to improve access and rights for Deaf people who use sign language.
The Charter contains five key pledges that will help support the Deaf community.
1. Consult formally and informally with the local Deaf community on a regular basis
2. Ensure access for Deaf people to information and services
3. Support Deaf children and families
4. Ensure staff working with deaf people can communicate effectively using British Sign Language
5. Promote learning and high quality teaching of British Sign Language.
All three Services are committed to ensuring their Deaf users have the same quality of provision, information, standards and right to be informed on a par with others in the wider community.
Wayne Bowcock, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, NFRS said: “We are proud to be signing the Charter in conjunction with Derbyshire and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Services.
"We are all committed to working in collaboration to ensure members of the deaf community can access services when they are required and offer their views during our consultation processes.
"By signing this Charter, we reaffirm our commitment to all our communities. We respect, recognise and value all who use the fire service, including those who use BSL.”
Agnes Dyab, Chair of British Deaf Association said: “the commitment from the three fire services has been magnificent, we have been able to hit three birds with one stone. Those three signatures will positively impact Deaf communities in three large regions across the East Midlands. We hope it provides inspiration for other fire and rescue services to follow."
Andrew Brodie, Assistant Chief Fire and Rescue Officer from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "It's important we support the Charter for British Sign Language. We pledge to further develop our relations with the Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing communities in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and improve their access to our services.
"We are already committed to overcoming the disadvantages often faced by deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people. We provide subtitles on videos and have a dedicated Community Safety Educator, who uses British Sign Language, when working with people from these communities. We will improve these services wherever we can".
Robert Foulkes, from the Derby Deaf Forum added: “As a community we have faced direct and indirect discrimination in the past but today I feel very pleased that the door is open.
"I know have the confidence to engage with fire service and equally it’s heart-warming to see they feel confident to communicate directly with our community.
"This commitment shows an improvement in access and it means we don’t have to use other agencies to source information.”
Anne Lawrence, from the Leicestershire Deaf Forum “Today feels like the opening of curtains for a theatre show, it is the start of collaboration and positivity. The Deaf experience is being genuinely included in shaping how access to the community is delivered.”