Introducing BSL 999 video relay service

North West Ambulance Service's (NWAS) Patient Engagement Team have been supporting Sign Language Interaction (SLI) with BSL 999 and their service partner Ofcom, for a national rollout of a service named ‘999 BSL UK Emergency Video Relay Service (EVRS)’.

This service allows deaf patients and hearing individuals to communicate from separate locations and attain the services they require. A deaf person can use their various endpoints (smartphone via an app or, tablets / laptops web-based) to initiate a call to the emergency authority, through a remote British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter appearing on their screen.

A hearing operator will then receive a call from the remote BSL interpreter, who then relays the conversation by seeing and communicating with the d/deaf individual on the screen. The national rollout date of this ‘new’ 999 BSL EVRS service launched at the end of June. 

The difference between the current process of 999 Emergency SMS Text Relay when deaf patients are accessing ambulance services and the new service of Video Relay, is that the Text Relay service relies on written English messages to be exchanged between a deaf and hearing user via a text relay advisor.

Text Relay calls typically can take longer than conventional calls as only one person speaks / types at a time – whereas the Video Relay Service exchanges between the d/deaf and hearing user and are designed to be as free-flowing as possible and near real–time.

On the 17 of June, NWAS were delighted to attend a launch event for the new 999 British Sign Language EVRS, with other emergency services and groups such as the Deafness Support Network (DNS). They were able to come together to discuss and bring awareness to this excellent new national initiative that will support our deaf communities.