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DWP services more accessible thanks to new British Sign Language pilot

Posted on 18/01/2016

DWP is introducing a new video relay service to help British Sign Language (BSL) users easily access government services.

British sign language pilotA groundbreaking new system to ensureBritish Sign Language (BSL) users can easily access government services is now in operation at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The video relay service (VRS) allows users to make BSL interpreted video calls via their tablet, smartphone, computer or laptop. A professional interpreter then relays the call in English to a member of DWP staff.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said:

"The introduction of the Video Relay Service is an important step in making government services accessible to Deaf people or those with hearing loss, and will ensure they can communicate with our staff quickly and easily. It will make a huge difference to their experience of using our services and I’m delighted we’re leading the way across government."

Damian Barry, Director of Community Development at the British Deaf Association, said:

"We are pleased that the DWP has acknowledged the importance of Deaf customers having full access to its services in BSL. The setting up of a pilot project is an encouraging step towards our wish to see full VRS access for Deaf people across all government departments."

The introduction of VRS is the latest demonstration of the department’s commitment to making services accessible for people regardless of their disability. The Minister for Disabled People has made accessibility across all sectors of the UK a priority for 2016, aiming to build on successes such as football’s Premier League agreeing to make significant improvements to their grounds by August 2017.

To deliver the VRS the department has signed a contract with industry specialists SignVideo, a social enterprise with extensive experience of delivering VRS for companies such as Barclays and Halifax banks and Allianz Insurance.

Access to the Video Relay Service

Customers will access VRS from links on the relevant GOV.UK information pages – for example, the Disability Benefits Centre contact page. Each hyperlinks acts as the “call” button for BSL users and carries a unique identifier which shows the provider where in DWP the call is for. This enables the provider to make contact with the relevant area.

DWP staff members will deal with calls as they would for any other call and ask a few identity verification questions through the interpreter before continuing.

There is no registration required for the service and it will be instantly available. There is no need to schedule an appointment.

DWP customers who have a specific communication barrier are able to use a variety of communication methods including home visits, phone calls and online services as well as written communications.

Where necessary the department provides British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters or non-spoken language interpreters, using contracted providers for customers who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired. We also use induction loops, email, lip reading, and textphones.

View the DWP video relay service guide:


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