Health & Well-being2nd September 2014

Department of Health invests heavily in online interpreting for Deaf people

Department of Health finally wakes up to the communication needs of deaf patients

by Sarah Lawrence

The Department of Health is investing £660,000 in an innovative scheme which will give tablet computers to Deaf people so they can access fully qualified interpreters online. InterpreterNow, the online interpreting service from SignHealth, will run the project over the next three years. They will lend tablets to around 700 Deaf people in the North West, South East, and West Midlands regions of England.

The tablets will be loaded with an InterpreterNow app, which gives instant access to an online sign language interpreter. They will enable health professionals and Deaf people to communicate with each other quickly and accurately.

SignHealth’s Sick Of It report, which was published earlier this year, showed that Deaf people are being failed by the NHS, with a reduced life-expectancy as a result. It discovered that 70% of Deaf people who hadn’t been to their doctor recently had wanted to, but were put off mainly by the lack of interpreters.

The failure of most doctors to provide sign language interpreters means that Deaf people have more undiagnosed potentially life-threatening illnesses than hearing people. They are also less likely to receive effective treatment when there is a diagnosis, and struggle to make appointments.

The new scheme will provide access to health-care which is equivalent to the service that hearing people get. It will also work to make more health professionals aware of the needs and rights of Deaf people, trying to reduce the institutional discrimination which means Deaf people are in general less healthy than similar hearing people.

In addition to interpreting services, the tablets will provide easy access to health information in sign language, as well as subtitled resources. Lack of easily available health information in sign language means that Deaf people are less able than hearing people to make informed decisions about their own health, and lack basic health and nutrition knowledge that others take for granted.

Face to face interpreting is an important part of healthcare and online interpreting is not designed to replace it entirely. InterpreterNow offers Deaf patients more choice, and quick access to an interpreter when it is not possible to get one in person.

Rapidly changing technology and faster mobile internet promise to revolutionise communications for Deaf people. InterpreterNow is at the forefront of making it happen, and this new project funded by the Department of Health is an important and innovative step forward.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Health & Well-being

2nd September 2014