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Action Deafness to Celebrate the Launch of New 999 BSL Service

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Action Deafness is hosting parties for the Walsall, Worcester and Oxford Deaf communities on Friday 17 June to celebrate the launch of 999 BSL, the UK’s first ever Video Relay Service (VRS) connecting Deaf people to the emergency services (police, ambulance, fire and coastguard) via a remote British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter.

The new service, which will be provided by interpreting and communication support provider Sign Language Interactions, will launch as an app (iOS and Android) and web-based platform on 17 June 2022. The service, which will be funded by private telecoms companies, will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and will be completely free of charge to Deaf users.

While a text relay service already exists, video relay will enable Deaf callers across the UK to make video calls to the emergency services in their own language – British Sign Language – for the first time ever, without needing to use English or ask a hearing person to make a call to 999 on their behalf.

This is another major milestone in improving access for the estimated 90,000 Deaf people in the UK, following the recent historic decision by Parliament to recognise British Sign Language as a language of Great Britain for the first time. The British Sign Language (BSL) Act passed into law on 28 April 2022 after decades of campaigning by the Deaf community.

Venues for the launch parties have been confirmed as: 

Oxford: North Oxford Association Community Centre, Diamond Place, Oxford, OX2 7DP.

Walsall: The Crossing at St Paul’s, Darwin Street, Walsall, WS1 1DA

Worcester: Vesta Tilley House, Lowesmoor, Worcester, WR1 2RS

Timings for each party will be 10:30-12:00. 

The 999 BSL launch party has been funded by a generous grant from Deaf health charity SignHealth and is one of many events taking place across the country on the 17 June.