Sign Assist: why it matters

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Connect Assist is now connecting more people than ever – by offering helplines with British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation for the deaf community.  

‘Sign Assist’ is a unique project that makes it easier for BSL users to access helplines, allowing them to speak in their native language. 

The traditional contact options available for deaf people looking to access helplines, such as a text relay service, can not only be limited but can often result in lengthy processes before resulting in an outcome. Connect Assist wanted to work with partners to create a unique and innovative service to tackle this. 

Last year, Connect Assist embarked on a mission to make this change and remove the barriers that deaf people face with when contacting a helpline or accessing a service.  

The first step Connect Assist took in implementing this new project was to employ a Bilingual Team Leader and advisors to converse with them and their wider team in BSL. Staff around the business were encouraged to learn basis BSL.  

Deaf since birth, Bilingual Team Leader Chris brings a wealth of professional and personal experience to his role, helping to remove barriers for the deaf community. 

Chris Coles, Bilingual Team Leader at Connect Assist, said: “Deaf people have so much talent and potential, but because of the stigma and the nature of their disability, they are often excluded from accessing the same opportunities and services as other people. 

“At Connect Assist, we are committed to breaking down the obstacles that people with this invisible disability face. I have experienced the challenges first-hand and want to help deaf people feel included, rather than excluded, from society. 

“My colleagues saw my passion for the deaf community and have encouraged me every step of the way. Together, we can empathise, break down barriers and deliver what the deaf community expect and deserve from us.” 

Connect Assist began to mobilise services for the unique project, and the first Sign Assist line went live in June 2021.  

Connect Assist hope the service will reach as many members of the deaf community as possible. Alongside the core goal to be more accessible to the deaf community, Connect Assist hopes for future partners to see the platform as an extension to the traditional channels of communication, such as live chat and email.  

Benjamin Lee, Contract Manager at Connect Assist, said: “The way we see it, BSL video support needs to be considered as important as calling on the telephone, utilising live chat and emails. We hope that by working with our customers, Sign Assist can evidence the greater need for more fluid and supportive measures to be in place within the deaf community.” 

06 May, 2022