The UK’s first ever national Video Relay Service (VRS), contactSCOTLAND-BSL, has been commissioned by the Scottish government to run for the next three years. Thousands of deaf people in Scotland stand to benefit from the free service.
ContactSCOTLAND-BSL is a ground-breaking Video Relay Service delivered by Sign Language Interactions in close partnership with InterpreterNow and nWise AB. Deaf people can call over 130 public organisations and thousands of third sector and voluntary organisations in Scotland via a video call to a sign language interpreter. Organisations that can be called include Scottish government departments, councils, health boards, hospitals and GPs, as well as the NHS24 and Police Scotland 101 non-emergency lines.
The award of the contract, after an open tender competition, follows a highly successful year-long pilot that was funded and evaluated by the Scottish government. Over 6,000 calls were made by deaf people during the pilot and this number is expected to substantially increase over the next three years.
The service can be accessed through any internet-connected computer with a webcam, as well as free apps on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. Deaf people can make a call to a fully qualified British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter who will phone a service or organisation on their behalf.
The interpreter will sign to the deaf person via the video link, speak with the hearing person over the telephone and relay the conversation back and forth. Using the service gives deaf people the opportunity to make a video call in their first language; a smoother and faster experience for all call participants compared to text-based relay services.
The successful and long-running partnership between Sign Language Interactions of Scotland (service lead and suppliers of BSL interpreters), nWise of Sweden (provider of the world leading platform MMX, specially adapted for high quality video interpretation) and InterpreterNow (a social enterprise owned by the UK Deaf Health Charity SignHealth that provides technical support and management) allows the successful delivery of contactSCOTLAND-BSL.
“We are thrilled and delighted to be awarded the contract to manage and deliver the contactSCOTLAND-BSL service. The Scottish government has shown real vision in commissioning this service and we look forward to continuing to play a part in giving deaf people in Scotland full and equal access to vital public services and voluntary organisations.”