For those who are Deaf or have hearing impairments, the most commonly used communication methods are:

  • BSL
  • Text Relay/Speech to Text
  • Subtitling
  • Lip Speaking

When working with a person who is Deaf, you should firstly consider that they may not be able to communicate using sign. You should not assume that they can as not all Deaf people use British sign language, every person/child will have their own preferred method of communication. You should find out if they use BSL, Speech, Lip Speaking or a mixture of all three. Alternatively if you patient requires another format of communication, please see the section which follows: ‘Alternative Formats Of Communication’.

British sign language is a unique, non-spoken language allowing its users to communicate using the method of signing. BSL users are people with limited or no hearing. It is important to remember that a person whose first language is BSL may not be able to communicate using English, as this may be a second language to them. Sign language is not a version of a spoken language as BSL uses different grammar and syntax from those found in the English language. Therefore, writing down information and giving it to your patient to read may be an ineffective way to communicate.[1]

You should always aim to provide an interpreter who is qualified to interpret in BSL, just as you would aim to provide an interpreter for a patient whose first spoken language is not English. When making a request for a BSL interpreter you should be very aware of your patients’ needs before booking.

Within the Deaf community, sometimes a BSL user will already be in contact with a BSL interpreter. With this in mind, it is important to ask your patient if they require a specific interpreter to attend their appointment with them. They may feel more comfortable using an interpreter they know rather than somebody they have never met before. Equally some Deaf people prefer to use an interpreter they do not know particularly if the appointment is of a sensitive nature. The gender of the patient and interpreter should also be taken into consideration, would the same gender interpreter be more appropriate, again this would depend upon the type of appointment.

With the BSL community being relatively small, BSL interpreters are often booked up at short notice, therefore we advise you give as much notice as possible for us to arrange a BSL interpreter for you and your patient. Language Empire’s policy recommends providing 10 to 14 days’ notice for BSL interpreters.

The interpreting style of a BSL interpreter means they will work simultaneously with yourself and your patient. They will have constant eye contact with your patient as the interpreter must watch for meaning. You should note this is common practice for this style of interpreting.

Some of your patients may be able to express themselves in English but may need the language to be made visible for them. For example:

  • Lip Speaking, (this may be accompanied with some signing).
  • Speech to text, (typing what is spoken onto a computer screen).
  • Finger spelling, (using a manual alphabet).

Good practice for working specifically with a BSL interpreter:

  • Do not cover your mouth as some users may use Lip Speaking as a support to BSL.
  • Use visual cues as a support.
  • Ensure good lighting in the room, natural bright sunlight may impede vision.

If you have never communicated with a deaf person before you may feel nervous about how to do it. But do not worry, it is not as hard as you think. Just as above it is important that you follow the ‘Before an Appointment’ guide, including the ‘Briefing Procedure’ and what to do ‘During an Appointment’ and ‘After an Appointment’.

[1] Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, Working with an InterpreterToolkit, Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, 2011, pg 8.

This method of communicating is ideal for some Deaf patients, those who are hard of hearing and patients who have speech impairments.

This method works by allowing the practitioner to call a patient and convey your message through spoken language. The Text Relay Operator will then convert your spoken message into a text format before sending this to the patient. At the other end of the call, once the patient has received this message they are then able to text a response back to the practitioner which in turn will be converted into a spoken message for you to understand.

Any patient who wishes to use this method will already have access to Text Relay technology making it easier for you to access.

If ever you have any promotional videos or particular media items that you need to convey to your patient, Language Empire can provide subtitling to ensure this media is accessible to those who have hearing impairments.  For many Deaf people and people with hearing impairments, subtitles are likely to be an important channel for receiving information. Subtitling is text on screen representing speech and sound effects that may not be audible to people with hearing impairments. It is synchronised as closely as possible to the sound.

You may find some people communicate best using a Lip speaker. This is a technique used to understand speech visually by interpreting the movement of the lips and face when sound is not available. This method is used mainly by those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Where you require a Lip Speaker you can contact us where will arrange for a Lip Speaker to attend your appointment.  Lip Speaking is also known as Lip Reading or Speech Reading.

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