Deaf groups welcome new accessible services

A new service has launched that can help keep organisations on the right side of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) by granting access to qualified sign language interpreters at the touch of a button.

The National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) celebrated at the start of April as its new database of contact details for registered communications professionals went live, vastly improving access for deaf and blind people across the UK.

NRCPD says the web-based database, which holds details of around 800 professionals from across the UK, will make it far quicker and easier for public service providers and businesses to find qualified professional communicators like sign language interpreters, and speech-to-text-reporters.

And industry professionals believe the database could provide vital help in ensuring public service bodies avoid fines for contravening the Disability Discrimination Act. Redbridge Council in London was recently fined after it failed on two occasions to interview a deaf man with a sign language interpreter as part of his housing application.

The full free-to-access service was formally launched at the start of April 2009 and can be found at

The announcement came as Lady Winifred Tumim was unveiled as the new chair of NRCPD. She said: “I am excited and daunted by the challenge of making the register robust so that deaf people see it as a vital and valued part of the process of accessing English, and interpreters value it as enhancing their careers.

“I wish I could wave a magic wand so that the supply of registered interpreters matched the deaf community’s urgent need for them. Campaigning to that end is a vital part of our job.

“The service will be an invaluable tool for any organisation that faces the public regularly – banks, emergency services, universities, social services and local authorities. From now on they will be able to find easily the communication professionals they need to provide an accessible service to deaf people.”

Meanwhile, Signature, the charity that promotes excellence in communication with deaf and deafblind people and offers nationally-accredited qualifications in relevant subjects such as British Sign Language to over 30,000 people each year, says the service could ensure employers, especially public service providers, would stay compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Signature Chief Executive Jim Edwards said: “The arrival of this service is excellent news – it will greatly improve access for deaf people. The recent example of Redbridge Council underlines the fact that providing access and communications for deaf people is not just a socially responsible thing to do – it is a legal requirement that is enforceable by law.

“Deaf people experience barriers and frustrations in everyday life that others find hard to imagine. This new service will make sure all providers are fully equipped to provide their services to deaf people.”

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