When talking about accessibility, what first comes to mind for most people is the physical environment; the tangible space with which a disabled person might interact. However, there are many other areas we ought to consider when working out how to generate truly accessible environments.

In today’s blog, we will be considering the accessibility of language, and by extension, auditory accessibility, and why providing sign language content is crucial for facility owners hoping to attract both disabled and non-disabled people to their site.

It’s important to first understand the reason that our brains jump to physical access above all else. Though there are many, a primary one is that for many decades (with a few exceptions), disabled people have rarely received a platform in pop culture that would allow them to be visible to the masses. In most societies of the twentieth century, government institutions and mass media rarely considered accessibility or disability representation in any area; physical, social, or digital.

In addition to this, many disabilities that we are aware of today were simply not known to most people. To many, disability just meant being in a wheelchair or wearing a cast due to a temporary injury. Permanently disabled people, on the other hand, were perceived to be something of a rarity, because environments did not exist for them to interact freely, therefore were less inclined to take part in society, and thus were less visible to most of us who lacked a friend who was disabled, or a co-worker, or a family member.

Only during these past few decades have we truly begun to identify disability and legislate disability rights in a way that has meaningfully resulted in widespread awareness of disability-related issues – and we still have a long way to go in this regard.

However, the incremental and increasing progress in disability rights, both in terms of our culture, and our institutions, is precisely why providing BSL content is not only important but necessary for business owners and service providers.

As standards have changed, with the publishing of laws such as the Equality Act, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and others, legislation now fully supports what Direct Access has continually worked to achieve; by making accessibility and inclusion the standard. Service providers are now duty-bound to provide not only physical accessibility but sensory and digital accessibility. Language and communication are obviously, key factors in each of these areas, so providing accessible formats such as Sign Language is key to meeting this requirement.

In the digital and automised era in which we live, computers are becoming a key tool in the lives of most disabled people, being used for everything from buying groceries, to arranging doctor’s appointments, to even physical tasks such as opening doors. However, it is obviously not possible to live a healthy and normal life indoors and in isolation, which is a lifestyle that we must never allow people to endure again (disabled or otherwise).

One way we can achieve this is by providing disabled people the resources they need to enjoy equal access in all aspects of society. Sign language video content is the ideal solution to utilising technology in a way that allows disabled people access to everything from key information, to maps, to instructions, wherever they are.

Sign Language content is already a necessity for a large portion of the disabled population. The UN estimates that there are roughly 70 million people utilising about 130 different sign languages worldwide. Most of them being deaf, and using their own local language, as sign language is neither generic, nor all-encompassing. Thus, it is vital to implement the most appropriate form of sign language content for your region’s audience.

BSL Sign Language Interpreter signing "How are you?" in the foreground of a chroma-keyed white background

In the UK, BSL is the most popular form of Sign Language. However, if the majority of your facility users are not native signers, (despite your facility being UK based), then you should rethink which form of Sign Language is most appropriate for your facility.

For instance, if you manage a place of worship such as a Mosque and want wish to offer a bespoke sign language video, employing a signer that understands Indo-Pakistani Sign Language may be more appropriate for your audience as opposed to a BSL signer.

As well as public spaces, diversification has also increased in our workplaces. With a welcome rise in disabled people entering the workforce; office environments, conference halls, and reception desks must facilitate both visitors and their employees with sign language interpreters, or at very least, digital BSL content specifically tailored to that environment, such as bespoke video content that offers information disabled people might otherwise need to receive from a member of staff speaking to them.

In addition to corporate settings, doctors’ offices, museums, entertainment venues, supermarkets, shopping centres, railway stations, bus stations, sports centres; anywhere public for that matter, are now held to a similar degree of scrutiny – as these areas working in accordance with each other is what it will take to create a truly equal and accessible society.

As social awareness for disability issues increases within some of the world’s largest corporations, the expectation from the public for smaller businesses following suit has already followed. This can also be said for the potential rewards that small businesses can reap from becoming accessible to disabled people in their community.

Not only can providing Sign Language content better your brand and diversify your customer pool to include Deaf people, but it also allows you to stand out from competitors, as well as attract non-disabled people who might accompany their Deaf friends. In addition, people who are neurodiverse, such as autistic people, people with Down Syndrome, and people with non-verbal or physical impairments such as Cerebral Palsy.

As an organisation founded by deaf people, Direct Access understands the need for BSL content better than most. That’s why we provide bespoke BSL content so that you can communicate crucial information to deaf people, while also providing non-disabled people with the tools they need to learn the fundamentals of sign language communication.

A male sign language interpreter demonstrating sign language for Courtyard in a Direct Access BSL video

If you own a facility or are part of an organisation that wishes to meet best practice obligations under the Equality Act, why not get in touch with us today? Our Consultancy team will ensure that you take the steps to not only do the right thing with your budget but open the door to the social and financial benefits that come only as a result of creating an accessible and inclusive environment for disabled people.

Get in contact today. We are here to help. Because for us, access is personal.

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