Police launches new British Sign Language 999 service

Deaf residents of Lincolnshire will be able to contact the emergency services in British Sign Language (BSL), from today (Friday).

Lincs Police's BSL 999 service
Lincs Police's BSL 999 service

999 BSL is a new service that connects Deaf users to BSL interpreters remotely through an app or a web-based platform, who then relay the conversation with the call handler at the Police, Ambulance, Fire or Coastguard in an emergency.

This service has been set up so that no Deaf person will be excluded when they need to make an emergency call, therefore saving lives.

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Chief Superintendent Diane Coulson, who is the Lincolnshire Police lead on disability, said: “I really welcome the introduction of the new video relay service for British Sign Language users, this is long overdue and will provide a vital service to those who only communicate in BSL to be able to independently contact the emergency services should they need to.”

Jessica Hinson, Sensory Service Manager at Lincolnshire Sensory Service, said: “I think it is important for Lincolnshire Police to continue engaging with the Deaf community to build up relations and to enable them to trust and feel safe in Lincolnshire. It will also allow Deaf people to be confident to approach the Police without difficulties.”

“999 BSL service is a huge breakthrough for the Deaf community, not just in Lincolnshire, but nationwide. It is a fantastic opportunity as it is breaking down the barriers that Deaf people face and is providing them with the access and equality they deserve.”

“BSL is my first language, and I am so proud that it has now become a recognised language. British Sign language is a beautiful language that uses gesture, body language, facial expressions and is steeped in history.”

“It will definitely make me feel safer, knowing that with just one click on the app, I can be transferred to the emergency services via a sign language interpreter.”

Users can access the 999 BSL service by downloading the app via iOS or Android or opening the webpage here, pressing the red 'Call 999 BSL now' button and they will be connected to an interpreter.

999 BSL is a national service for emergency situations only; if a crime is in progress or there is a risk to life or property.

For more information about the 999 BSL service, visit the website at www.999bsl.co.uk