British Sign Language pilot introduced to make DWP services more accessible

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced a new video relay service to help British Sign Language (BSL) users access government services.

Now operational at the DWP, the system involves video relay services (VRS) allows users to make BSL interpreted video calls via their tablet, smartphone, computer or laptop. A professional interpreter then relays the call in English to a member of DWP staff.

“I am absolutely committed to ensuring equal accessibility for disabled people – whether that be access to employment, leisure facilities, or public services,” says Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson.

“Historically, disabled people may have faced barriers, but it is one of my top priorities to break every one of these down.”

TRIALLED

VRS is being trialled through the call centres for Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Access to Work, as well as by the Access to Work advisers in the Hearing Loss Team.

“The introduction of the video relay service is an important step in making government services accessible to D/deaf/HoH people or those with hearing loss, and will ensure they can communicate with our staff quickly and easily,” adds the Minister for Disabled People.

“It will make a huge difference to their experience of using our services and I’m delighted we’re leading the way across government.”

COMMITMENT

Committed to improving accessibility across all sectors of the UK, with the Minister for Disabled people making this his main focus since 2016, this is just one more step in the right direction.

To deliver the VRS the department has signed a contract with industry specialists SignVideo, a social enterprise with extensive experience of delivering VRS for companies such as Barclays and Halifax banks and Allianz Insurance.

Customers will access VRS from links on the relevant GOV.UK information pages – for example, the Disability Benefits Centre contact page.

Each hyperlinks acts as the “call” button for BSL users and carries a unique identifier that shows the provider where in DWP the call is for. This enables the provider to make contact with the relevant area.

The Minister adds: “My role is to work across government and with different industries to remove the barriers that disabled people face.

“We made some real progress in 2015 but I want to see much more this year.

“Businesses need to recognise that if they do not make the changes needed they could be missing out on very talented employees, not to mention millions of the so-called ‘purple pound’.”

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