Access for Deafblind BSL users

Access to Sign Language Interpreting Video Relay Service for Deafblind Sign Language Users

Press release in BSL

Watch Debra use contactSCOTLAND-BSL as the first deafblind BSL user accessing the video relay service.

ContactSCOTLAND-BSL, Scotland’s nationally funded online British Sign Language/English interpreting video relay service (VRS), delivered by Sign Language Interactions on behalf of the Scottish Government, is delighted to announce that the service can now be accessed by people who are deafblind and use British Sign Language (BSL).

Deaf BSL users have been using contactSCOTLAND-BSL to contact any of the 140+ public bodies or any of the 1,000’s of Scotland’s third sector organisations by calling through a mobile device such as a smartphone, tablet device or desktop computer, signing via the camera to the online BSL/English interpreter who in turn calls (phones) the public body or third sector organisation and relays the call between the two parties.

Deafblind people have been unable to access this ground-breaking and at times life changing service due to the simple fact that they cannot see the interpreter on screen!

Now with advances in technology and software, deafblind people whose first language is BSL, can now access the video relay service by signing to the online interpreter using BSL and rather than seeing the signed response, they receive the responses via a braille display attached to the computer with responses being typed by the online interpreter. This is a first for Scotland and a first in the UK.

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said:

“This service is a breakthrough in helping deaf and now deafblind people, who rely on British Sign Language, to live as independently as possible and retain a level of privacy, no longer having to rely on family and friends to make calls for them. The Scottish Government has provided more than £1 million over the past three years to deliver this initiative, and with calls to contactSCOTLAND-BSL rising by almost a quarter over the past year, I’m sure this latest technology will result in even more people using this service.”

Debra Wherrett – Deafblind BSL User (the first ever user!) said:

“At the time when technology advanced with video I missed this opportunity because of my sight loss, a real missed opportunity which was really disappointing. I always thought I wouldn’t have the chance to use video relay. Now I have that opportunity!

Never say ‘impossible’, there is always possibilities, I thought I wouldn’t have this chance.  Thank you.”

Andrew Dewey, Director, Sign Language Interactions said:

“Advances in video technology has meant that deafblind people have been excluded from benefiting from services that many people take for granted. Now, deafblind BSL users can have access to all of Scotland’s public bodies and third sector organisations and make phone calls where previously they had to rely on others to make them. Calls can be from the mundane such as ordering food for their guide dog (albeit pretty important to the dog!) to contacting council services or making appointments at their GP surgery whenever they need to. The key is being able to express themselves in their language of choice – BSL.

We are extremely honoured to be delivering this truly ground breaking and potentially life changing service on behalf of the Scottish Government, and are grateful to everybody who has made this amazing advancement possible”


More information can be obtained from:

Sign Language Interactions 112 Cornwall Street South Kinning Park Glasgow G41 1AA

T: 0333 344 7712

E: admin@signlanguageinteractions.com

M/SMS: 07970 848868

Notes to editors

  • It is estimated that there are about 9 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing. Out of this figure there are an estimated 151,000 people use British Sign Language (BSL) and of these 87,000 are Deaf.

British Deaf Association: https://bda.org.uk/help-resources/ There are between 5,500 – 8,000 BSL users in Scotland

  • There are an estimated 23,000 Deafblind people in the UK Deafblind Scotland estimated there are around 5,000 people in Scotland with a dual sensory impairment. Relatively few people are totally deaf and totally blind – many have a little hearing and/or sight left. deafscotland: http://www.scod.org.uk/faqs/statistics/

Numbers of deafblind BSL users are relatively small, however, access and barriers are immense for this group.

  • Sign Language Interactions is Scotland’s largest provider of communication professionals with deaf and deafblind people. With contracts to deliver British Sign/English language interpreting, Electronic Notetaking (ENT) and communication services with deafblind people to a number of public and private services.
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