Working with sign language interpreters for events

There are many things to consider when planning an event, but sadly, accessibility is often something that isn’t given the priority it deserves.

While things are improving, many event organisers still don’t do enough to meet the needs of audience members who require additional communication support.

Here, we take a closer look at the importance of making events accessible to a Deaf audience and the role that BSL interpreters play in making that possible.

What is British Sign Language?

British Sign Language (BSL) is the most common form of sign language used in the UK.

There are around 151,000 BSL users, and about 87,000 BSL users are Deaf.

BSL has its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax and, as a language, is not dependant on spoken English. Gestures, body language, facial expressions and hand shapes all play a role in BSL.

It has many regional variations, or dialects, which means that BSL users from different parts of the country may use different signs to communicate the same words or phrases.

While profoundly Deaf people in the UK widely use BSL, Hard of Hearing people, of which there are 11 million in the UK, often use different forms of communication support such as lip readers, speech to text reporters and palantypists.

So, when it comes to planning your event, it’s important to remember that not every delegate with hearing loss may be proficient in BSL, so making the content available in other formats is essential to make your event as accessible as possible.

Providing communication support for your event

The Equality Act 2010 made it a legal requirement for service providers to make reasonable adjustments to ensure Deaf People can access their services.

When planning your event, it’s vital to ensure you cover all bases to ensure it’s accessible to the widest possible audience.

Giving delegates with hearing loss the opportunity to discuss any accessibility requirements with you in advance is key. You shouldn’t make assumptions about which adjustments Deaf attendees may require.

While using BSL interpreters is essential, there may be Deaf or Hard of Hearing delegates who require additional communication support, which you should try to meet if possible.

It’s also important to ensure you use a sign language interpreter who understands regional dialects and colloquialisms within BSL and can communicate these to your audience if required.

Deafblind communicators, lip speakers and speech to text reporters can also help make your event more accessible.

The key is to ensure your Deaf delegates are satisfied they will be able to engage and participate equally throughout the event.

Due to the different signs used across different regions, Sign Solutions provides local in-person interpreters to match the requirements of local Deaf BSL users.

We also provide remote BSL video interpreters with experience of various regional signs so that businesses or organisations looking to make their products, services, information or work more accessible to the Deaf community can provide on-demand access to BSL interpreters, enabling instant communication between Deaf and Hearing people.

Preparing for your event

When it comes to preparing your event, there are a few simple things to bear in mind to help ensure it goes without a hitch and makes things easier for your speakers, your interpreters and your audience.

The stage layout is vital. If any of your speakers are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, you’ll need a plan for how their interpreter will communicate with both the speaker and the audience – where will they stand so they can see the Deaf person speaking? Do they need a microphone?

The timing of your event is also key. For example, if you’re using a BSL interpreter, they will need time to translate what’s being said from BSL to English or vice versa.

Giving your interpreters an event brief beforehand will help alleviate some of these issues.

An agenda or schedule will give your interpreters a better understanding of the structure and timings of your event. Copies of scripts and presentations will help them prepare for when the content is delivered. And any information about potential discussions or Q+As that may occur will also enable your interpreters to do some background reading to prepare in advance for what might be said.

It’s also essential to bear in mind that any delegates who require an interpreter will more than likely need them for the whole event, not just during the presentations, especially if there are break-out sessions or networking opportunities.

Where can I find a BSL interpreter?

If you need to make your event 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 event is as accessible as possible.

All the experienced BSL interpreters we work with are DBS-checked and NRCPD-registered and can provide a high-quality service to Deaf people across the UK.

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 or contact us via a BSL video interpreter.