Campaigning for deaf children at the Lib Dem conference 2009: day 1

We were fashionably late, but today, the NDCS campaigns team arrived at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Bournemouth. It’s the second year running they’ve come here. I can only conclude that their leader, Nick Clegg, loves the local opportunities for crazy golf.

David Laws MP
David Laws MP

Anyhow, we hit the day running. Highlight of the day for me was meeting the Lib Dem lead on children and education, David Laws, who’s been a warm supporter of NDCS in the past. As always, he was keen to ask lots of questions about our concerns, had lots of suggestions and was happy to support our work on acoustics and accessible examinations for disabled children. He also took the time to listen to our simulation of what it sounds like for a deaf children in a school with poor acoustics.

We also met Dan Rogerson, the Lib Dem spokesperson for Communities and Local Government who has agreed to put pressure on the people responsible in Government for the Building Regulations which set out the acoustic standards on schools.

And we also met Bridget Fox who is the Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate for Islington in London. If she wins, NDCS’s headquarters will be in her constituency. She seemed really interested in provision for deaf children in London, particularly in the quality of new school buildings and their acoustics.

Everyone we met was unfailingly helpful, keen to learn more and willing to support us – which is always very gratifying and welcome. It warms my heart without the need for a costly Costa coffee.

We also got to attend a couple of fringe meetings, which provided another highlight of the day – a chance to meet Floella Benjamin, children’s TV presenter from years back. I was amazed by how little she has aged since I was year. She was chairing a meeting about safeguarding children, which randomly started with me explaining that the man sitting with his back to her was not being rude, he was my interpreter! Later, I took the opportunity to ask whether more needs to be done to safeguard disabled children, to which the panel agreed. Indeed, one Lib Dem peer is quite keen to talk with us more about this issue tomorrow morning.

Overall, a good first day. We’ve got more meetings tomorrow where we’ll be aiming to get more key MPs and peers supporting our work.

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