Unique British Sign Language programme expands in Scottish third sector.
An online sign language service is celebrating its first anniversary by expanding into the third sector.
Scottish Government-funded contactSCOTLAND, which allows deaf people across Scotland to contact public sector services, is being extended to community groups, voluntary organisations, charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and individual volunteers.
Minister for sport, health improvement and mental health, Jamie Hepburn, confirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to the service, which is unique in the UK.
He said: “There are estimated to be around 6,500 people living in Scotland who use British Sign Language (BSL) and these people deserve to have the same access to services as everyone else.
Charities and other third sector organisations will have a new way to communicate with BSL users
“Last year, we extended the pilot of this programme to cover all public sector services in Scotland – so people could contact their local council, doctor’s surgery, NHS 24, the police or us at the Scottish Government, among others.
“The service is going from strength to strength. There has been a sustained increase in the uptake of the service with calls averaging 100 per week.
“Now it’s rolling out to the voluntary sector and breaking down even more of 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. But this means deaf people can video call an interpreter at contactSCOTLAND directly who will then speak to the relevant public or third sector organisation and relays the conversation for the deaf person.
“This is a fantastic project and gives BSL users equal access to public sector services, allowing them to enjoy greater participation in daily and public life.”
John Downie, director of public affairs, at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations said: “This is an important step forward for thousands of people in Scotland using BSL who will find it easier to access the vital services and support provided by third sector organisations across the country, and for charities and other third sector organisations who will have a new way to communicate with deaf BSL users.
“This service will make a real difference to people’s lives by making sure they receive the information and support they need when they need it.”