How to work with a BSL Interpreter

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Legal Guidance



It is important to realise that under The Equality Act 2010,  deaf people have the ​legal right​ not to be discriminated against based on their disability, especially in a​ healthcare setting such as ​a hospital or a GP surgery. Within the ​public sector, it is normally the responsibility of the​ service provider to book and pay for ​a BSL​/English​ ​interpreter on behalf of the deaf client.



How to book the interpreter?



Depending on the rules at your organisation, ​it is recommended that the deaf client is asked if he/she can ask their preferred interpreter if he/she is available for the assignment. If the Deaf client were to make the  booking with the interpreter it can save time and any potential inconceniences can be negated  as the interpreter and the deaf client will maintain contact, should things happen i.e. the interpreter or the client being delayed by unforeseen circumstances. Once the interpreter confirms his/her availability, then he will be provisionally booked by the deaf client and all details will be given to you so you can get in touch with the interpreter to do the official confirmation. In some situations, the deaf client would say he/she will prefer it if you can deal with it yourself.  It is unfortunately common for deaf clients to turn up at appointments, not finding an interpreter there because there has been no communication between the deaf client and the interpreter.

Preparations for the BSL/English interpreter



Once an interpreter is booked, you need to ensure that there is appropriate seating for the interpreter i.e. they should be positioned close to the main speaker, but in the clear view of the deaf client. It is important to inform the organisers about the interpreter and where he will be positioned. It is important to involve the deaf client in discussions to see what their preferences are: depending on how many deaf people will be there and what sort of venue it will be.


​A​ny written materials should be emailed to the interpreter ASAP in advance for them to prepare for the assignment. Hard copies on the day would be much appreciated​.



Tips on​ communicating with the​ deaf client​ when using a BSL interpreter


BSL/English Interpreters translate ​simultaneously from Spoken English to British Sign Language so there is no need for you to go very slow when talking. Sometimes it would be good if you can pause for a moment for the interpreter to catch up after a lengthy talk but if it is a brief conversations, then there is no need for you to consider pausing.



Deaf clients​ appreciate being spoken to in a​ direct way i.e. "Hello, how are you?", not "Tell him that I say hi and I want to know how he is" which can be considered as offensive. The interpreter is here, not as a helper, but as a trained & skilled professional to convey everything between you and the deaf client. Sometimes, there will be misunderstandings arising so the interpreter will clarify i.e. there may be concepts that the interpreter is not familiar with or some regional signs that he may not have seen before. He may need to seek clarification to ensure that everyone has access to the full information, not just the deaf client but the hearing person too.



The interpreter cannot be expected to be involved in the discussion. We are impartial and we will not get involved. Some interpreters may be too familiar or friendly with the deaf client but it is often because they have worked together many times and the deaf client usually respects the interpreter's professionalism when in formal settings.



Slight delay in translation is to be expected: especially when you might have finished talking, you may see the interpreter still working away. If the deaf client has finished signing, you may find the interpreter still doing the voice over for a short time after. This is normal.



Any concerns about working with a BSL/English​ interpreter, please do not hesitate to contact me.




For further information regarding the Equality Act  please click HERE


For my Terms and Conditions please click HERE

  Please note Terms and Conditions by a third party (Agencies )  will not be accepted unless specifically reviewed and a hard copy provided to all concerned.


For NRCPD code of conduct click HERE









Many thanks, and quoting my late father, Forever Positive!