British Sign Language available for emergency services

British Sign Language (BSL) users can now communicate more easily with the emergency services following the June launch of the 999BSL video relay service. 

The free-to-use nationwide service can be found online at or downloaded as an app and enables a BSL user to connect to a BSL interpreter video call in an emergency. The interpreter then calls 999 using a landline to relay the conversation to the emergency services operator.

The new service is a lifeline for people who only communicate using BSL. Now they can independently contact emergency services if they need to. The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year and there’s no need to register.

The launch of 999BSL comes after Ofcom announced last June that telephone and broadband companies must carry the service. NHS 111 already operates a BSL video call option.

Abigail Gorman, public affairs and policy manager at SignHealth, the deaf health charity, said: “This is a breakthrough for deaf people that will save lives and means one more step forward towards equality. We won’t be satisfied until deaf people have full and equal access, particularly to life saving health services.”

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