It’s a sad fact of life that many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people still face inequality and discrimination when trying to access services or information that most hearing people take for granted.
Although much progress has been made in recent years, many businesses and organisations still aren’t doing enough to make themselves genuinely open and accessible to all.
Communication lies at the heart of this issue.
Making information as widely accessible as possible gives the Deaf community more freedom to access products and services and helps promote inclusion.
British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation is one of the keys to breaking down communication barriers for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and making your business or organisation more accessible.
Is sign language in demand?
The Disability Discrimination Act places a legal obligation on all businesses and organisations to make their services accessible to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.
One of the ways they can do this is by hiring a sign language interpreter.
While Deaf people rely on various methods of communication, BSL is the first or preferred language of around 150,000 people in the UK.
For many Deaf people, English – whether written or spoken – is their second or even third language. While some Deaf people are fully bilingual in BSL and English, many struggle to understand more complex language conventions and grammar, or words that are less commonly used.
This means that members of the Deaf community may struggle to access services and information available to the wider community.
BSL interpreters play a crucial role in bridging that gap and making the interaction between Deaf BSL users and non-BSL users possible. They also help to convey information in a way that written communications can’t, as written communications are not as direct as signed conversations and can often lack the nuance that a professional BSL interpreter can bring.
It’s often assumed that most Deaf people can lip-read, but that’s not true either. Lip-reading skills vary significantly from person to person and are affected by a host of issues, such as the environment and context of the conversation. The accent, speaking speed, and words or language used can also affect a person’s ability to lip-read and understand what’s being said.
Most BSL users are more comfortable and confident expressing themselves using BSL than written or spoken English. Again, this is where a BSL interpreter is vital in helping your organisation engage with Deaf staff, customers, or other stakeholders.
However, it’s important to remember not all Deaf people communicate in the same way, and their preferred method of communication may vary over time.
So, while it might not be possible to check with every Deaf person you deal with how they would prefer to be communicated with, offering a range of communications options will make your organisation more accessible to a broader range of Deaf people.
Working with a BSL interpreter
Effective communication is crucial for businesses and organisations of all sizes.
It helps develop better relationships with colleagues, leadership and management, customers, service users and other stakeholders. It helps to create a diverse and inclusive culture that engages everyone and doesn’t discriminate. It can also help ensure you are meeting your legal obligations.
Understanding the needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, whether they are staff or customers, is essential.
In particular, thinking about how the Deaf community engages and interacts with your business or organisation can help you identify the steps you need to take to ensure you remain as accessible as possible.
There are many ways that working with a professional BSL interpreter can help you achieve this to benefit your business, your staff and your customers.
A professional BSL interpreter will enable your Deaf BSL users to participate in meetings, presentations and training sessions equally and allow them to feel engaged, informed and able to contribute. It will help bring your information and content to life and make it available to a wider audience.
It will also help ensure your customers and service users feel confident when accessing your services and give them a fuller understanding of any important information associated with them.
And regularly using BSL interpreters within your business will send out a clear message that you take inclusion and accessibility seriously, care about all your staff and customers, and strive to treat them all with the same level of respect.
Where can I find a BSL interpreter?
If you need to make your business or organisation, services and information more accessible to a Deaf audience but aren’t quite sure where to start, Sign Solutions can help.
We provide BSL interpreting and translation services in-person or online, plus expert consultancy, to help ensure your organisation is as accessible as possible.
All the skilled BSL interpreters we work with are DBS-checked and NRCPD-registered and can provide a high-quality service to Deaf people across the UK.
We can also provide a range of accredited communications professionals for Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing users in various sectors, from education and community to legal and healthcare.
To find out more, and for expert advice on which type of communication support will meet your needs, give us a call on 0843 178 0773, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via a BSL video interpreter.