BSL Services

At Direct Access, we are often asked about the kinds of sign language interpreters and our sign language services. We provide sign language interpreter services to the NHS in England, Scotland, and Wales via an NHS SBS framework contract and produce sign language videos for a variety of clients.

So, what is sign language? It is a visual way of communication used by Deaf people using gestures, facial expressions, and body language to convey meaning. Sign languages are full-fledged natural languages with their own grammar and lexicon.

BSL or British Sign Language is the main sign language in the UK. As with spoken English, there are regional variations in signs reflecting local communities and cultures. In Northern Ireland, Deaf people are often fluent in both BSL and ISL – Irish Sign Language. Other countries have their own sign languages.

How do you sign in BSL? People often think sign language is just using your hands. That is not the case. BSL users do use hand shapes and movements, but they also use gestures, lip patterns, facial expressions, and shoulder movements to talk. You can find online video dictionaries that show some common signs, such as at

The only time English is used in BSL is for fingerspelling, however, this is only in limited situations such as spelling people’s names or place names. Deaf people will have signs for specific places or names that may illustrate a key aspect. Chesterfield, for instance, is signed to illustrate its crooked spire. London uses a rotating finger around the temple/ear, the same sign for noise.

Government recognition – the UK Government formally recognised British Sign Language as an official minority language in March 2003. It is the first or preferred language of 150,000 Deaf people in the UK.

What is a sign language interpreter? An interpreter is someone who translates what someone else is saying to enable deaf people to understand what a person is saying. They will also translate the sign language into spoken English.

Interpreters need to use their knowledge of both languages. They need to use their understanding of the cultural differences between the people they are interpreting for, to translate a message accurately. Sign language interpretation may sometimes be simultaneous, whereas, in meetings with a spoken language interpreter, breaks will occur to enable the translation to take place.

As with any language, there are courses for everything from everyday conversation skills, right through to degrees and professional qualifications. So, if you are looking to get a sign language video made you will need to check your interpreter is suitably qualified. At Direct Access, Deaf people feature in most of our videos as we have a history of creating employment opportunities for Deaf people. Have a look at this example we produced for Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust.

Why would I benefit from providing sign language videos?

It is challenging and frustrating to not be able to understand the information that you need. Sign language videos give your customers the independence to get and understand the necessary information in the most accessible format possible without having to rely on other people.

We are often asked why not just subtitle a video – not everyone has the literacy level required to use written English. Combing both enables your videos to become accessible for Deaf sign language users and hard-of-hearing people who may not use sign language but would like to use subtitles. Why not ask us for a quote today? – we can recommend a range of options best suited to your needs.

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