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For over 175 years, the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) has worked to promote access to services in British Sign Language. From providing communication support for children’s activities, helping adults secure employment and combating loneliness in the older generation; we are here to make sure Deaf people achieve their aspirations with the support they want, when they need it and in a way that it is accessible to them. One of our key ambitions is to support mainstream providers to be accessible to Deaf people and we achieve this by providing a number of services including professional translation services.

What is British Sign Language?

Many think that sign language is a universal language used by all Deaf people worldwide but it’s not. Sign language evolves wherever there are Deaf people. Not only are there international variations but there are regional variations too, much like the regional accents and colloquialisms found in spoken languages. British Sign Language (BSL) is the signed language of the Deaf community in the UK. A rich and complex visual-spatial language, it involves a combination of hand shapes, facial expressions, lip patterns and body language. The first description of a Deaf person using sign language in England appears in the Marriage Register of St. Martin’s, Leicester in 1576. BSL has its own grammar and sentence structure and is not a signed equivalent of English.  For the majority of Deaf people in the UK, English is a second or third language. In spite of being the first or preferred language of approximately 87,000 Deaf people in the UK, BSL is yet to receive the legal recognition in England and Wales that other minority languages such as Welsh and Gaelic have. Scotland, however, passed the BSL (Scotland) Act in 2015. Can you imagine how it feels when you communicate in your first language and most people don’t understand you?  Or when you need to access a website or important document in your second language? The lack of legal recognition means that Deaf people continue to face communication barriers in their daily lives. Everyday tasks like making a medical appointment or dealing with a delay on public transport can be a real challenge.

How can RAD’s translation service help your organisation?

Translating information on your website into BSL will enable Deaf people to understand your message and what you are about. Providing information in BSL demonstrates your commitment to meeting your requirements under the Equality Duty Act 2011, and perhaps more importantly, shows people that you are committed to equality of access. Our translation services are provided by accredited, experienced Deaf professionals. Previous clients including local authorities, HMRC, CHDA (Centre for Health and Disability Assessments), Maximus and Energy Best Deal. HMRC worked with in partnership with RAD to ensure Deaf people had access to tax services via their website: www.royaldeaftax.org.uk For more information on how to quickly increase your audience size and be a leader in your field, get in touch with our friendly and professional team by emailing interpreting@royaldeaf.org.uk

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