BSL interpreting

Enabling communication between Deaf and hearing people

Why book an interpreter?

You can book a British Sign Language (BSL)-English interpreter to enable communication with a Deaf customer. The BSL interpreting service can be booked by anyone including: 

  • Service providers
  • Education Authorities
  • Public Bodies
  • Individuals

Under the Equality Act (2010), booking and paying for a British Sign Language interpreter to enable communication with a Deaf customer would be seen as a reasonable adjustment, ensuring equitable and fair access for Deaf BSL users.

Without the qualified interpreter, the hearing and Deaf person would struggle to communicate effectively with each other.

The BSL interpreting service is delivered by professional interpreters who provide a confidential service and work to strict codes of practice. All interpreters booked through NESS are registered with the Scottish Register of Language Professionals with the Deaf Community (the Scottish Register) or the UK body NRCPD (National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People).

Professional charges are payable by the customer making the booking.

Who uses British Sign Language?

Over 7,000 Deaf people in Scotland use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language. They were born profoundly deaf or became profoundly deaf before they learned to speak.

BSL is a recognised British language, and a recognised language of Scotland. BSL is a visual, three-dimensional language, using gesture, movement, facial expression, and body language.

BSL has its own grammar and structure, which works differently from spoken language.  It is not universal but has regional dialects, meaning some signs will differ.  Because of the different grammar and structure, it is essential the BSL users can communicate and get information in sign language so they get a full understanding.

Working with an interpreter

The following tips will help you to feel confident when meeting with a Deaf person and working with an interpreter.

  • Find out from the Deaf person if there is anything they need to make the communication work
  • Check with the Deaf person and interpreter how they want the seating arrangements. Usually, the interpreter will sit next to you, and opposite the Deaf person
  • Make sure there is good lighting and limit distractions
  • Allow plenty of time – the communication will take a bit longer
  • Always talk to the Deaf BSL user although they will be looking at the interpreter
  • Be aware that the interpreter will interpret everything including any asides
  • The interpreter is not there to support the person, only to interpret
  • The interpreter may explain Deaf culture to you, and hearing cultureto the Deaf person to ensure better mutual understanding
  • Medical and criminal justice appointments will need an interpreter with specialised training in interpreting in these complex situations
  • Provide information about the appointment in advance to the interpreter so they can be fully prepared and interpret more effectively.

Book an interpreter

Get in touch to book an interpreter via our Contact page

or fill in the enquiry form to get in touch


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