Barnsley Council makes it easier for Deaf community to access services

Barnsley Council has been taking huge steps to make it easier for Barnsley’s Deaf community to contact them and Berneslai Homes. This is a very positive move towards achieving equality in the way Deaf people communicate with, and access council services.

The council has been working closely with Barnsley’s Deaf Forum and SignVideo to offer Barnsley’s Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users a new Video Relay Interpreting Service (VRS) which allows Deaf people to video call the council free of charge via a link on the council website. The video connects to a BSL interpreter who then phones the council to relay the conversation in real time.

The service is also available remotely - Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). This means that Deaf people can have a face-to-face conversation with a hearing person - such as a council officer, and a BSL interpreter will then relay the conversation. This is great because it can be used in short notice situations, or for straight forward meetings and enquiries.

The council are also working hard to make it easier for Deaf residents to contact them and access services online. A number of BSL videos have been produced for the website providing guidance and support to access and use a number of council services, including managing and paying council tax and recycling in Barnsley. The council are planning to continue producing more BSL videos in the future to increase the range of services covered. Some services can also be contacted via the website’s live webchat facility which allows residents to have an instant two-way, on-line chat with a member of the team - in real time.

A number of services have a dedicated SMS text number for Deaf people, or people who’re hard of hearing which can be used to contact the relevant department with queries. The relevant service will then reply and assist in an appropriate way. If a problem can’t be solved over text, the Deaf resident could then use the BSL Video Relay service or a face to face appointment may be needed (with a BSL interpreter).

Councillor Gardiner, Cabinet Spokesperson for Corporate Services, said: “We’re delighted to be working with provider SignVideo to offer this invaluable interpreting service to our Deaf customers in Barnsley. We’re working hard to make it easier, quicker and more convenient for the Deaf community to contact us and access our services which will improve their experience of using council services. We’d like to help our Deaf residents to communicate with us just as easily as hearing residents and this is certainly a very positive step in helping us achieve this.”

Kahlid Ashraf, on behalf of Barnsley Deaf Forum, said: “Contacting the council as a Deaf person can be difficult. We’re pleased that the council are providing a Video Relay Service because this makes contacting the council more accessible. This is a welcomed additional support for Deaf people, who will continue to use face to face interpreters for more complex enquiries.”

To access, or for more information about the Video Relay Interpreting Service, please visit: www.barnsley.gov.uk/bsl-vrs

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