THERE were two chaps standing plonk in the middle of the bike lane the other day.

Acres of pavement all around, but there they were, taking up the width of the cycle route with absolutely no sign of shifting.

Just as I was working out whether I was best to bump down into the road or up on to the pavement to avoid them, I noticed they were engrossed in a conversation in British Sign Language.

One of them spotted me just in time and so, as they moved out of the way, I used one hand to sign "Sorry!" then "Thank you". We all smiled at each other in the April sunshine and went on our respective ways.

But it was a nice wee moment, to be able to communicate, however briefly, in another language, reaching across a divide. When you speak a minority language the struggle, day in and out, to understand and be understood by those outwith your language community must become wearing.

A couple of brief signs is the absolute bare minimum, though, a token gesture. Nothing nearly as good as Labour's Vicky Foxcroft, who gave Boris Johnson a drubbing at Prime Minister's Questions over the lack of BSL interpreters at government briefings.

Ms Foxcroft defied the Speaker's instructions and asked her question in BSL only. It didn't take any great fluency in the language to interpret that whatever the honourable lady was saying, it wasn't good. I slightly wished she had just left the silence hanging for a bit longer to see if the prime minister might verbalise his lack of comprehension but she let him off the hook by going on to ask a question in English.

"If the Prime Minister doesn’t understand," she said, "Imagine how those who rely on British Sign Language feel at his press briefings?"

Ms Foxcroft's was the first ever question at PMQs in BSL, which is quite extraordinary given that in March we passed the 18th anniversary of BSL becoming a formally recognised language.

Sign language has been very sparsely used in the House of Commons: Dawn Butler signed a question about legal recognition for the language, Penny Mordaunt was the first government minister to sign in parliament just three years ago. There are few other examples.

The shadow minister for disabled people asked previously, in November last year, why the press conferences exclude those who rely on BSL yet the prime minister continues to fail to answer. Though it's not an answer that people want, it's an interpreter.

At the first national lockdown in March last year there was no effort by the Westminster government to make what was a life changing and unprecedented announcement as inclusive and accessible as possible. There was no BSL interpretation. The letter to households detailing the lockdown and its necessity was not immediately available in accessible formats.

Yes, the BBC provides interpretation of the briefings but other broadcasters do not - and it should not be incumbent on them to do so. The live stream doesn't provide a BSL interpreter either.

Wags on Twitter, thinking they were being awfully smart, pointed to two coronavirus briefings No.10 had broadcast on YouTube with a BSL interpreter. Very good, but that's entirely different from having an interpreter in the room signing the briefing live for those watching on television.

It also requires people to seek out briefings, rather than have the same immediate access as others do, and it requires access to the internet, which not everyone has.

Most pertinently, it treats BSL users as an afterthought, as second class.

The language has a different grammar and syntax to English so, while some have retorted to ask why BSL users can't switch the subtitles on, you're essentially asking people to absorb vital information in a second language when it would be very simple and of relatively little cost to provide it in their first language.

When Ms Foxcroft asked in October last year for Mr Johnson to commit to a BSL interpreter there was no progress. "I doubt that we will get one in time," the PM replied, presumably still working on the assumption it would all be over by Christmas. It was a vaguely bonkers answer - how difficult does he believe it to be to engage the services of an interpreter?

A month later she asked him to meet with a group of disabled people to discuss the lack of sign language at press briefings but this meeting has yet to occur.

On Wednesday, the second part of Ms Foxcroft's question was the kicker. "£2.6 million spent on the new press room, yet still no interpreter. What message does [Borish Johnson] think this sends to disabled people?"

Mr Johnson shot up like a Jack from a box, mumbled, and collapsed back down. He was, he said, "grateful" for the question. He did not look grateful. "I will revert to her as soon as I can," he managed.

Let's translate that. What Mr Johnson means is that, seven months after first being asked about a BSL interpreter he hasn't bothered to set the wheels in motion to provide one. The Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland all have sign language interpreters at briefings. Stormont has two - one in BSL and one in Irish Sign Language.

Others with keener eyes than me have pointed out the new £2.6m briefing room does not have adjustable height lecterns and no wheelchair access to podiums. There was a mighty amount of agitation around the number of flags decorating the backdrop but very little criticism of the lack of accessibility.

Able-bodied people are privileged enough not to have to notice these things. We may luxuriate in the fact we can upset ourselves over decor without worrying about actual issues, those of accessibility.

Boris is no shirker when it comes to languages. He could, presumably, translate the briefings into Ancient Greek if he felt like a lark. You'd think his study of language might give him a particular respect for those of his electorate who are bilingual.

This, though, is the head of a government not prone to making life easy for disabled people. This month sees a rise of just 37p a week for disabled and severely ill people on legacy benefits, who are left out of the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift.

What message does the lack of BSL interpreter send? It sends a message that the prime minister has no real care for the disabled community. Being unable to empathise with or anticipate the needs of others is the epitome of privilege, in any language.