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Thousands of British Sign Language (BSL) users are being offered sub-standard support during emergencies because 999 services are not accessible enough.

This is unacceptable.

Currently the only way for BSL users to contact 999 is using emergency SMS and text relay services.

Text is not sufficient for many deaf BSL users. English has a completely different structure to BSL, so reading and writing in English can be difficult for BSL users, especially in a stressful or dangerous situation. This can lead to delays in getting appropriate support, which can have life-threatening consequences.

So, what’s the plan?

We are working with Ofcom and other charities to call for a video relay service which will enable BSL users to contact 999 through a BSL / English interpreter.

Ofcom are the regulators responsible for making sure communication options are available and accessible.

Part of our work is providing proof to Ofcom that there is a need for this service, which is why we need your help.

We need you

This service is for us, so we should have a say.

We are inviting BSL users to share experiences with 999 services on a Facebook group so that we can collect stories and feedback to give to Ofcom as evidence. Please join the group and share your experience of contacting 999.

You can participate directly in Ofcom’s consultation, which is asking for input from BSL users to make sure the service fits our needs.

There’s also a petition organised by Action on Hearing Loss asking Ofcom to create a video relay service for BSL users.

Follow SignHealth on social media or join our mailing list for updates on access to 999 services.