contactSCOTLAND-BSL has a double celebration this month – its first birthday and news that the Scottish government had decided to commission the service for a further three years, to include the third sector.
The online interpreting service, which gives deaf people the same access to government services as hearing people, is delivered by a partnership of InterpreterNow, from the Deaf Health Charity SignHealth, and Sign Language Interactions, based in various locations across Scotland.
contactSCOTLAND-BSL is funded by the Scottish Government and is managed by Sign Language Interactions. It works via technology delivered and supported by InterpreterNow. The service runs on any internet-connected computer with a webcam, using its browser. It also runs on smartphones and tablets, using the free InterpreterNow Apps. Conversations are relayed between deaf users and hearing organisations by fully-qualified interpreters provided by Sign Language Interactions.
Deaf people can use contactSCOTLAND to contact around 130 public organisations, from local councils and GP surgeries to the NHS24 and the Police 101 (non-emergency) lines. Thousands of third sector organisations and voluntary groups can now also be contacted, including 23,000 charities registered with the Office for the Scottish Charity Regulator.
In just one year, the pioneering national service has transformed the lives of deaf people. Many have reported that the online interpreting service has literally moved them into the 21st century. Under a visionary Scottish Government, deaf people state they now have greater freedom and control over their lives.
John Maidens, Managing Director of InterpreterNow and Andrew Dewey, Director of Sign Language Interactions said:
“We are very proud to have been partners in this groundbreaking pilot, which due to its success has now been given ministerial approval to move into full implementation. The uptake of the service has been really encouraging with calls averaging 100 per week.
We’re delighted that InterpreterNow and Sign Language Interactions have played such a significant part in making vital services as accessible to deaf people as they are to hearing people.”
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. “