Sign Solutions
Sign Solutions is a language and learning company, specialising in interpretation support for Deaf people, we provide BSL interpreting; face-to-face and via video, BSL translations, expert witness reports, BSL and CPD training and deaf awareness training via e-learning, 24/7/365 throughout the UK.

Latest News from Sign Solutions

How Covid-19 has highlighted a need for better access to health services for Deaf people


The constant new barrage of developments regarding the coronavirus outbreak has left most people feeling anxious about their own health, the health of family members and friends and the impact the virus will have on their lives.

As the world grapples with a once-in-a-generation public health crisis that has already claimed more than 178,000 lives worldwide, the Deaf community is facing communication barriers that make it even harder for them and their families to navigate the pandemic.

Lack of information

When the government gave its first coronavirus updates, the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing people were not taken into consideration in official communications. Press conferences had no interpreters present, leading to an uproar in the Deaf community and furious lobbying to the Department of Health and Social Care until interpreters were provided for every briefing.

Further down the line there continued to be problems, for example the TV adverts outlining key Covid-19 advice on things like washing hands, social distancing and coughing into your elbow contained no interpreters, leaving some Deaf people misunderstanding information. Some were unaware of the need to wash hands for 20 seconds, and others thought social distancing was only required if people had symptoms.

An ongoing problem

Unfortunately, this lack of access to vital health information is nothing new for the community, and the pandemic has only served to highlight the continuing barriers faced by Deaf and hard of hearing people, as they struggle to keep abreast of developments.

Many studies report that Deaf patients encounter severe communication barriers when accessing health services. It is a shocking fact that Deaf people are more likely to suffer ill health than other people, simply because it is harder for them to use the health services that many of us take for granted. Deaf people are twice as likely to have high blood pressure, four times more likely to develop diabetes and generally have a reduced life expectancy[1].

Furthermore, a worrying NHS report shows that 44% of Deaf patients found the last contact with their GP or health centre to be difficult or very difficult, compared with only 17% from a general population patient survey[2].

Generally, healthcare professionals are not given the necessary support to care for Deaf patients which is worrying, since inadequate communication may lead to wrong diagnoses and misguided treatment. These communication barriers amplify global health emergencies like the pandemic for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

Adequate care is a right

One can only hope the current pandemic and the light it has shone on the obstacles Deaf people face will help place the community’s needs firmly on the agenda.

This is not a big ask – adequate access to health services is a civil right. Under the Human Rights Act, health practitioners and staff must establish effective communication with patients with hearing loss as part of their human rights.

The government needs to find optimum strategies to integrate Deaf peoples’ needs into primary health care systems and ensure they are given information in a way they can understand. In a large-scale research about the preferred communication mode of Deaf and hard of hearing people in clinical settings in the UK, 50% of the sign language users preferred to communicate via sign language interpreters[3].

There are many tools that can be put in place now to improve access for Deaf people, even as we face more time in lockdown and in-person medical consultations are being kept to a minimum.

Video British Sign Language interpretation, for example, can be implemented to remove the communication barriers for Deaf patients, and give them the freedom to access the services provided by their local NHS trust remotely.

Video interpretation has been commissioned for many years, however the government and NHS have so far been slow to move forward with the implementation despite the clear benefits.

Not only can video help minimise the admin time for clinics, it can reduce the costs associated with cancelled face-to-face appointments, which can be rescheduled to take place virtually. Video is also available for short notice, non-complex emergency requirements and ensures Deaf patients can communicate straight away without delay and from the comfort of their home.

Change is needed  

Overall, the coronavirus pandemic has brought to the forefront the truth about the lack of access to medical services for the Deaf and hard of hearing, showing that change is needed.

The virus does not discriminate among people, and the response from the government and healthcare officials must not either. By learning from previous shortcomings and employing the correct measures, they can eliminate these entirely avoidable issues and bring the communication problems Deaf people have to battle against to an end.

Clare Vale is Managing Director of Sign Solutions





Interpreting & other communication services

We are able to provide a full range of communication professionals available for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing users in any domain, be it legal, business, medical, educational, conference, community, theatre, etc: 

  • British Sign Language (BSL)/English Interpreters (NRCPD Registered)
  • Lipspeakers (NRCPD and/or Association of Lipspeakers Registered)
  • Deafblind interpreters: Visual Frame, HandsOn or Manual (NRCPD Registered)
  • Speech-to-text operators (Palantype and SpeedText) (NRCPD/BIVR or AVSTTR Registered)
  • Notetakers (electronic and manual [hand-written]) (NRCPD Registered)
  • Deaf Relay Interpreters (Language intermediaries for Deaf people who are not fluent in BSL)
  • Deaf Intermediaries: Deaf intermediaries to support vulnerable Deaf adults/children in legal proceedings (Home Office accredited)
  • BSL/English translations (video, DVD, website etc)
  • UK Registered Expert Witness Services (Interpreting/Translation issues)Lip-reading services (CCTV, covert surveillance, etc)

Is it ‘interpreter’ or ‘signer’?

Many people refer to Sign Language interpreters as ‘signers’, however this is an incorrect term. They describe a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter as a ‘signer’ because they use Sign Language, i.e. they sign in order to communicate. The common language for Deaf people in the UK is BSL (British Sign Language); therefore these Deaf people require interpreters for many aspects of life.

There is no one way to interpret – interpretation is subjective to the interpreter (or ‘signer’ as some hearing people incorrectly term them), therefore every interpretation will be different.

The company was launched as the first independent Sign Language interpreting agency, and here at Sign Solutions, we are Sign Language specialists, i.e. we specialise in the field of BSL (British Sign Language) and interpreting. Our reputation is well established within the industry of interpreting; 75% of all NRCPD interpreters are registered with us and take freelance work through us. We are now one of Britain’s leading providers of interpretation and translation services.

We are available 24/7, and offer competitive rates with no administration charges.

BSL (British Sign Language) Translations

Translation is a carefully prepared and considered piece of work involving the translation of written text from one language to another. It is performed by a translator, and it is different to an interpretation; it is more exact.

A ‘for information’ translation, also  known as a ‘sight translation’, is an accurate but unpolished piece of work that is produced in-house using a camcorder (English to BSL) or using standard printing and letter/document formats, or alternatively, audio tape (BSL to English).  They are produced faster and much more cheaply than a publication translation.  Sight translation is suitable for letters or information that is intended for individual/personal use only.  Examples range from an explanation of a leaflet to court/tribunal judgements.

Sight translations

Sight translation is suitable for letters, video-letters or information that is intended for individual/personal use only. Examples range from an explanation of a leaflet to court/tribunal judgements.

Public Translations

A ‘publication translation’ requires a much higher standard of preparation, accuracy, fidelity, clarity and quality and will be filmed in a professional recording studio. The final product will reflect the style/image of the source material and of your company/product.

Publication translations are required for any documents where it is important to portray a professional image.

Because they are filmed in professional recording studios, the cost will be greater than that of a sight translation.

It is almost always preferable to use a Deaf presenter for ‘publication translations’. This is because the Deaf person will have first language fluency and this creates an instant rapport with your Deaf audience. The majority of BSL (British Sign Language) interpreters (or ‘signers’ as some hearing people incorrectly term them) only have second language fluency and their translations can be immediately recognised as a non-native production. This is because the BSL (British Sign Language) may not flow as smoothly as it should, i.e. word order or choice of vocabulary may be unduly influenced by the English source text. It is equivalent to listening to a heavily accented and perhaps ungrammatical foreign person presenting in English. This lowers the quality of your product and can often alienate your client.  Using a Deaf person will not usually incur any extra expense.

With Sign Solutions you can be sure that the final product will be an accurate and high quality translation.

BSL (British Sign Language) & Interpreter Training

We are an award-winning and accredited NVQ6 Training & Assessment Centre dedicated to the provision of high-quality training, assessment, monitoring and continuing professional development (CPD) for BSL/English Interpreters and other professionals who use BSL (British Sign Language) on a regular basis. We also provide Deaf Awareness Training and Levels 1-6 BSL (British Sign Language) courses for individuals and organisations.

We can deliver training courses anywhere in the UK, and can tailor the training to suit your needs; therefore the training will be bespoke. This can be done for any course: BSL (British Sign Language), Interpreting or Deaf Awarene.

Our course portfolio includes:

Level 6 NVQ Diploma, Sign Language Interpreting
Level 6 NVQ Certificate in BSL (British Sign Language)
BSL/Interpreting Level 6 Development Training
NVQ3 in BSL (British Sign Language)
BSL (British Sign Language) Level 1
BSL (British Sign Language) Level 2
Deaf Awareness face-to-face training & via e-learning
Introduction to BSL (British Sign Language) Linguistics
Induction into Police & Magistrates’ Court Interpreting
Professional Deaf Relay training
Introduction to Interpreting in Mental Health Settings
Advanced English for Interpreters
Language Processing & Coping Strategies
Intensive Voice-Over Training (BSL-to-English)
Intensive English-to-BSL Training
Totally CPD (a chance to earn all your CPD points in one course)

Sign Solutions provide the largest range of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) training courses of any UK Sign Language agency; therefore if you are a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter, who is looking to develop your interpretation skills and knowledge of interpreting and BSL (British Sign Language), why not sign up to one of our CPD (Continuing Professional Development) training courses?

Innovations

We offer various innovations available to both Deaf and hearing people – whether an interpreter or not – to assist in communication between the two communities. In addition to in-house training, we provide Deaf Awareness via e-learning; this method raining is available online and so provides an alternative to Deaf Awareness training face-to-face. The user(s) will receive a certificate of Deaf Awareness upon completion of the course.

In addition, we offer a finger-spelling app which provides the first steps for a hearing person to communicate with a Deaf person. It teaches the user how to spell their name in BSL (British Sign Language), and the finger-spelling is demonstrated by a Deaf presenter.

Our Head Interpreter has also developed a range of Training DVDs which aim to help interpreters improve their BSL (British Sign Language) kills. Each training DVD contains two discs: one for interpreting English-to-BSL and the other for interpreting BSL-to-English. Each individual nstructured CPD points when completed.

He has developed a supplementary DVD which is designed specifically to assist interpreters working in police settings. Police cautions can often cause difficulties, and this DVD is designed to assist interpreters in interpreting this challenging procedure. The DVD is intended to be used as a guideline for interpreters; it features three Deaf people providing alternative ways of interpreting the caution.

Expert Witness

Here at Sign Solutions we offer a diverse team of expert witnesses. An Expert Interpreter/Witness is someone who has specialised knowledge in BSL (British Sign Language), beyond that of a regular BSL interpreter, and can advise and/or work with counsel on specific language and cultural issues relevant to Deaf people, British Sign Language and Interpretation. They can provide accurate transcripts of police interviews with Deaf people, and verify the accuracy of in-court interpretations. Expert witnesses are indispensable in high-profile legal assignments.

It is inevitable that interpreters will make mistakes, and without establishing that the Deaf person understands what is being asked of them during the interview/court hearing and verifying the accuracy of every minute aspect of interpretation, the outcome of the court case could very well be compromised. Sign Solutions currently offers six Expert Witnesses.