Family of Oscar winning actress and PCC welcome new 999 service for deaf people
The family of an Oscar winning deaf actress from Swindon have joined Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson and Wiltshire Police in welcoming a new 999 service which uses British Sign Language (BSL).
Anyone who needs to use it can download an app which allows them to make a video call to a BSL interpreter who will ask a few questions before connecting directly to a control centre.
You can see how it works in the video below:
PCC Philip Wilkinson said:
“Priority One of my Police and Crime Plan is to provide a quality of police service to all our communities.
“The introduction of this app could not have come soon enough, and it now means the deaf community will receive the same level of service that the non-deaf community has experienced for the last eighty-five years.
“Anyone who’s in danger or is witnessing a crime needs to be able to communicate the situation both efficiently and precisely. I hope this gives BSL users more confidence to contact the emergency services.
Gilson Sly is from Swindon and works for the Gloucestershire Deaf Association which also serves Wiltshire. His eleven year old daughter Maisie is also deaf and is the star of the Oscar winning film “The Silent Girl”:
“Up until now, deaf people have had to rely on friends and neighbours in already stressful emergency situations.
“If someone has a fall in my home or I see someone in trouble, it’s reassuring to know there’s a person I can call who is trained and can pass on my information
"I think the new 999 service is fantastic because it means as a deaf person who uses BSL, I can be independent because the access is there now”
One in six people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing and there are around 150,000 British Sign Language users.
George Raggett is a trustee of the Dorset and Wiltshire Deaf Association:
"The new 999 BSL service will smooth the way for Deaf BSL users to access emergency services and exchange vital information quickly and accurately, removing the stress from any miscommunication during an already traumatic experience."
Whilst this is a new service in the UK, nothing changes for Wiltshire Police's call handlers.
Chief inspector Doug Downing, who runs Wiltshire Police's Contact Centre said:
"We receive around 250 999 calls a day and whilst I'm not expecting a high number of the new BSL calls, it's absolutely right that the 999 emergency service is available to as many people as possible regardless of their circumstances. We very much welcome the new facility"