Most British companies and government departments are ignoring new ways of offering video links to British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters because they misunderstand the value of this to deaf customers, a leading practitioner has told E-Access Bulletin.
Jeff McWhinney, chair of social enterprise SignVideo ( http://www.signvideo.co.uk ), was speaking following the launch of a trial service by the broadcaster Sky, allowing deaf customers to contact the company’s customer services team using SignVideo interpreters based in London and Edinburgh.
Most of my experience with sign language comes from a learning disability point of view, indeed other than couple of former work collegues I almost no expereince of deaf (or indeed Deaf) culture.
My instinct about the offering of BSL interpreters was that since so many operators are moving to (to be fair, very badly run) chatroom-style customer service relations anyway, that they might claim that the chatroom based approach was something of a great leveler – and was as easy to use for any level of hearing… What I found very interesting was this statment from McWhinney, which states:
The problem is, the average deaf person has a low reading age, so in email exchanges there will be misunderstandings, he said. “But when deaf people are able to use sign video as first language, they can express themselves confidently.”
Being entirely honest, my absolute assumption was that deaf people would have a higher reading age than average – simply because that’s how so much information must have to come in.