- British Sign Language interpreting on demand makes video calls accessible for Deaf community.
- 250% rise in demand for interpreting services since March.
- Research shows businesses risk losing customers with digital exclusion and lack of accessible design in everyday technology.
There are 11 million deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK and many need British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters for everyday conversations with organisations. Social distancing and self-isolation policies during the coronavirus lockdown have made it difficult for interpreters and Deaf people to meet, adding to the challenge of trying to communicate with companies, employers, doctors or consultants remotely. British video technology company StarLeaf provides an on-demand service that delivers an immediate solution to the problem, proving that designing digital services with disability in mind benefits everybody.
Sign Solutions, a specialist provider of BSL interpreter services, has partnered with StarLeaf to create a feature which gives any user the ability to request a BSL interpreter on demand or pre-booked through the StarLeaf app. Currently being used by the NHS and organisations across the UK, InterpretersLive! can be accessed on any desktop or mobile device. Clicking a link on an InterpretersLive! customer website or dialling Interpreterslive! via the Starleaf app allows users to have a call between the Deaf person, a BSL interpreter and the person they need to speak with in real time using StarLeaf.
The solution has been invaluable during lockdown, making sure that everyone is able to access essential services whilst instantly giving businesses and the NHS, technology to continue reaching their users remotely. Sign Solutions has seen a record 250% rise in demand for BSL interpreting services since the UK’s physical distancing policies came into place in March.
The immediate shift to remote living and working has exposed the urgent need for better accessibility in the technology underpinning everyday activity. Digital exclusion doesn’t just make it harder for Deaf people and their families to navigate the pandemic, it also hits the bottom line of business. Research from Scope shows that UK companies are losing customers every day, with 75% of disabled respondents saying that the lack of accessible design in digital technology was holding them from spending and accessing services online.
From medical appointments and employee communication over video, to virtual job interviews and customer service, InterpretersLive! is aiding conversations for everyone. Companies including Virgin Media, Three and EE offer the service to customers on their websites to make sure their contact options are accessible. Amazon UK uses the technology to communicate and hold meetings with Deaf Associates working in fulfilment centres across the country. To make sure healthcare services continue despite coronavirus measures, and to reduce unnecessary travel, 31 NHS organisations across the country are running remote medical consultations with InterpretersLive!, powered by StarLeaf.
Will MacDonald, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder at StarLeaf said:
“Video is at the centre of our daily communication right now, and it’s set to continue that way as the world navigates the coronavirus crisis. Organisations must adapt in order to thrive. Now is the time to adopt accessible remote communication practices that work for everyone. We’re proud that StarLeaf can help solve the unfair communication challenges that many Deaf users face every day.”
Clare Vale, Managing Director of Sign Solutions, said:
“The Deaf community has always faced barriers in accessing information and communication, and the current pandemic has only made this harder. With many people having to stay at home to work, study and access important services virtually, keeping conversations inclusive for Deaf people can be near impossible if the appropriate interpreting facilities aren’t in place.”
Kristina Barrick, Head of Digital Influencing at disability equality charity Scope, said:
“Inaccessible video call software means disabled people are excluded, now more than ever as it’s become our link to the outside world during lockdown. Tech companies have the power to change that, and it’s fantastic to see this innovation from StarLeaf and Sign Solutions breaking down barriers disabled people face in accessing events, meetings, job interviews and social engagements online.
“Being able to get a BSL interpreter at the click of a button just shows there are no limits and no excuses when it comes to inclusion. We hope more businesses will follow StarLeaf’s lead by innovating for a more inclusive society.”