From education to employment

More interpreters are needed for deaf people says Malcolm Bruce MP

A leading MP is calling on businesses and workplaces to offer employees basic sign language classes to offset the severe shortage of sign language interpreters in the UK.

At present, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People charity (RNID) has warned that there is less than one qualified interpreter for every 100 BSL users in the UK, which is affecting the access deaf people have to services and support.

Speaking today on the European Day of Languages, Mr Malcolm Bruce said that UK companies could improve the situation by teaching employees British sign language (BSL) and offering work placement opportunities to BSL interpreting students.

The Liberal Democrat MP, backed by the charity RNID, said:

“With a chronic shortage of BSL interpreters in the UK compared to neighbouring European countries, particularly in Scandinavia, it is important to encourage more people to take up an interest in learning BSL.”

Mr Bruce, who is also the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Deafness, is being shadowed in Parliament by an interpreting student from the City Lit Deaf Studies Degree course.

“As part of their studies, it is important for students to observe a range of generic workplace settings, where no deaf people or interpreters work so they can gain an understanding of how BSL support can be beneficial,” he said.

BSL is just one of 200 indigenous languages practised in Europe, and the European Day of Languages, established by the Council of Europe in 2001, aims to encourage the take-up of new languages.

“I am asking people to begin at home and try to consider taking up BSL which as a British language has so much to offer,” continued Mr Bruce. “The Welsh Assembly is trailblazing in training more BSL interpreters. I hope England, Scotland and N Ireland will soon follow suit.”

Katherine Phipps, RNID’s director of communication services, said:

“From 999 emergencies to job interviews, interpreters provide a vital link for users of British Sign Language, many of whom don”t learn English as their first language. For the UK’s 50,000 sign language users, access to fully trained interpreters is a vital lifeline.”

Annabel Hardy

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