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Digital British Sign Language

Mar 2015

Language ,

BSL Sign for Scotland

Earlier this month the Scottish Government announced an extension to the wonderfully successful NHS 24 British Sign Language Video Relay Interpreting Service pilot. The extension will allow deaf Scots to access the rest of the public sector without the need for someone to call on their behalf.

The video service, dubbed contactSCOTLAND, allows deaf Scots to directly communicate with public sector services via a video interpreter. The service is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom.

Scottish minister for sport, health improvement and mental health, Jamie Hepburn, welcomed the new service, saying:

“There are estimated to be around 6,500 people living in Scotland who use sign language and these people deserve to have the same access to services as everyone else. By extending this programme to cover all public sector services in Scotland, we are removing the barriers that some deaf people face when trying to get in contact with their local services.

“For the majority of people who rely on sign language to communicate, they need to arrange to have someone to call on their behalf. This new project will mean deaf people can video call an interpreter at contactSCOTLAND directly who will then speak to the relevant public sector organisation and act as an intermediary for the deaf person.

“This is a fantastic project and gives British Sign Language users equal access to public sector services, allowing them to enjoy greater participation in daily and public life.”

The service will draw from a £184,000 funding block provided to NHS 24 for the 2014/2015 financial year. Select members of the NHS 24 workforce will undertake an MA in BSL at Heriot-Watt University, ensuring that all of Scotland’s deaf community has access to the same services.

Janis McDonald of the Scottish Council on Deafness commended the project, saying:

“Janis McDonald, SCoD’s Chief Officer, said: “SCoD is proud to have been involved from the early days of the pilot work and sees many benefits to Deaf People wishing to access services that are readily available to hearing peers. It is terrific; accessible, discreet and confidential, designed with people in mind. Many have already received information and treatment because of it.”

The service is free and can be used to contact all public sector organisations in Scotland. Organisers stress that contactSCOTLAND is for non-emergency calls only. For more information visit

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