Sign language interpreting service expanded

Person using contactSCOTLAND service
Norette Ferns

A service which allows deaf people across Scotland to contact public sector services using sign language is being expanded into the voluntary sector.

The online British Sign Language (BSL) interpreting service contactSCOTLAND is funded by the Scottish Government. As the service celebrates its first birthday it has been announced that it is being extended to community groups, voluntary organisations, charities, social enterprises, cooperatives and individual volunteers.

Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, Jamie Hepburn said:

"Firstly, let me congratulate everyone involved with contactSCOTLAND on celebrating this milestone.

"There are estimated to be around 6,500 people living in Scotland who use British Sign Language and these people deserve to have the same access to services as everyone else.

"Last year, we extended the pilot of this programme to cover all public sector services in Scotland – so people could contact their local council, doctor’s surgery, NHS 24, the police or us at the Scottish Government, among others.

"The service is going from strength to strength. There has been a sustained increase in the uptake of the service with calls averaging 100 per week. Now it’s rolling out to the voluntary sector and breaking down even more of the barriers that some Deaf people face when trying to get in contact with their local services.

"For the majority of people who rely on sign language to communicate, they need to arrange to have someone to call on their behalf. But this means Deaf people can video call an interpreter at contactSCOTLAND directly who will then speak to the relevant public or third sector organisation and relays the conversation for the Deaf person.

"This is a fantastic project and gives BSL users equal access to public sector services, allowing them to enjoy greater participation in daily and public life."

Paul Tipling, a contactSCOTLAND user from Greenock, said:

"Using contactSCOTLAND is brilliant as it provides access for me to use BSL rather than written English. I am now able to access numerous organisations when I need them and I no longer have to rely on someone to telephone for me.

"I can contact local voluntary groups, local disability organisations and make arrangements to attend meetings etc.

"Making contact using contactSCOTLAND means I have clear communication on my terms. It’s fantastic. I am really pleased with the service. Thank you so much."

Visit the contactSCOTLAND website for more information.