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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Communication support for deaf people

Deaf and hearing people communicate with each other in many areas of everyday life. Often they need support to communicate effectively with each other. Access to 'communication support' services is available in different ways.

About communication support

Communication support includes British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, deafblind interpreters, lipspeakers, notetakers and speech-to-text reporters (palantypists). The people who are employed to provide this service are called Language Service Professionals.

Communication support may be provided in a variety of situations by 'service providers' and employers such as:

  • at a job interview, on a training course or at work
  • when visiting a doctor, optician or hospital
  • when attending court or at a public meeting

How communication support is arranged

In most situations, communication support has to be booked in advance. Booking may be required up to six weeks in advance.

Service providers need to know what communication support you need in order to use their services. You should give as much information as possible so that they can book the correct support.

This is especially important when medical or legal information is involved - such as in hospital, at a police station or in a courtroom. Some Language Service Professionals have extra experience in certain situations.

Information required could include:

  • the length of the session
  • helpful information about the session such as medical diagnosis, presentation slides or the agenda at a meeting

Service providers, local authorities and government offices - for example Jobcentre Plus or social services departments - could access communication support by:

  • employing in-house Language Service Professionals
  • contacting agencies or individuals that offer communication support

Hospitals, doctors, and 'legal agencies' (such as the police and courts) should have a standard procedure and booking system for arranging interpreting services.

Examples of communication support in certain situations

At the doctor's or in hospital

Deaf people have the right to have a qualified interpreter for medical appointments. Children and family members should not be used as interpreters or communicators generally. However, sometimes it may be appropriate for an adult, for example a spouse or partner, to act as an interpreter.

Looking for work and while in work

At a jobcentre or Jobcentre Plus office an interpreter may be able to support you to write application forms and CVs. An interpreter can translate information between you and the Disability Employment Adviser.

The 'Access to Work' scheme can provide support to disabled people and employers. People who provide communication support under this scheme are called 'support workers'.

They submit invoices to the employer for payment of the services carried out. The employer and employee sign a claim form to get back their fees from the scheme. In certain circumstances, your employer may be expected to contribute towards the costs of communication support.

At college or university

Colleges can receive additional funding to meet the additional learning needs of deaf or hearing impaired students which may include providing Language Service Professionals.

Disabled Students' Allowances can help if a student has extra costs during higher education that are a direct result of a disability. The allowances can help pay the cost of a non-medical personal helper such as an interpreter or notetaker.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

The DDA makes sure reasonable adjustments are made to assist disabled people in recruitment, employment and enable them to access goods and services. The DDS applies to employers and providers of goods and services to the public.

For deaf people, reasonable adjustments might include providing communication aids or services, such as sign language interpreting.

Qualifications for Language Service Professionals

Most service providers use only fully qualified Language Service Professionals. You can find out the types of qualifications, levels of training, registration categories and more from the Signature website.

The website also has an online directory of qualified Language Service Professionals.

Learning sign language - find a course

Browse through a database of UK courses to learn about communication support and languages - including British Sign Language (BSL), lipreading and Makaton.

The service is provided by Careers Advice.

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