Insights Ofcom announces new emergency video relay service for sign language users

Ofcom has published a statement stipulating that, from next year, British Sign Language users will be able to contact the emergency services using video relay.

Under existing rules, people with hearing or speech impairments can already communicate with other people over the phone via an Ofcom-approved text relay service and can contact the emergency services by simply sending a text message to 999.

However, these services rely on written English, which can lead to misunderstandings for British Sign Language (BSL) users in emergency situations. To ensure that BSL users have equivalent access to the emergency services with other people in the UK, Ofcom is now requiring telephone and broadband companies to offer a free, 24/7 video relay service for BSL users to contact the emergency services, via a dedicated mobile app and website. Telecoms firms can either deliver the service themselves or contract another organisation to do so, but it must be approved by Ofcom. To read Ofcom’s statement in full, click here.