SignHealth’s online interpreting service InterpreterNow launches a ground-breaking system for Deaf people in Scotland on Monday.
It’s the first of its kind anywhere in the UK, and builds on a successful trial in Scotland which let Deaf people contact the NHS24 out of hours service.
Now Deaf people can use it to contact all government services. That’s everything from the 32 local councils and GP surgeries, to NHS24 and the Police (non-emergency) 101 line. It also includes official organisations such as Historic Scotland.
The Scottish Government are paying for the service.
“This really is a break-through for Deaf people”, says John Maidens, the Managing Director of InterpreterNow. “For the first time Deaf people can contact organisations by phone, giving them the same sort of access to services and democracy as hearing people.”
InterpreterNow is working closely in Scotland with Sign Language Interactions in Glasgow. They have been supplying the interpreters for the NHS24 service, and they have helped us get the contactSCOTLAND service agreed and running. They will be the main providers of interpreters to the new service. Both organisations believe that Deaf people should have access to public services which is equivalent to the access hearing people have, and now that is a reality for all government services in Scotland.
Scotland is leading the way, but SignHealth is negotiating with government departments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland too. NHS111 announced recently that they will be providing a way for BSL users to contact them.
SignHealth and InterpreterNow hope to make some exciting announcements in the next few months.
InterpreterNow runs on any internet-connected computer with a webcam, using its browser. It also runs on smartphones and tablets, using the free InterpreterNow app. The user just needs a good internet connection.
The organisations which Deaf people call through contactSCOTLAND don’t have to make any changes or have any special training.
They simply receive an ordinary phone call, in which the interpreter speaks the words the Deaf person is signing to them on the app. The reply is then signed back to the Deaf person using the app, at the same time as the hearing person is speaking.
As well as allowing Deaf people to make calls they can also receive calls on their app from hearing people too. All the calls are paid for by the hearing organisation, the Deaf user just needs to have a smartphone or tablet with an internet connection.
Deaf people can also make video calls to each other and communicate in sign language for free.