Deaf people can now use a video app to contact 999
Previously, deaf people could only make audial calls for the police and ambulance or fire brigade, but a new BSL-friendly new service is being launched.
You will be able to download and use an app to communicate to a BSL interpreter who will then relay the information to emergency services. Ofcom, the communications regulator, says that telephone and broadband companies are required to offer the free, 24/7 video call service for BSL users.
Until now, deaf people could only use a text messaging service to contact 999, but this only worked if you had registered in advance. So anyone who needed access but hadn’t registered had to find an alternative way to get help, which could be catastrophic in the case of an emergency. Additionally, the text service operates only in English, meaning non-speakers might also struggle to communicate their situation and needs.
It’s been the result of a long campaign by deaf organisations and individuals, including the national hearing loss charity, RNID, and Sign Health, the deaf health charity.
Questions and answers
What is 999 BSL?
999 BSL is a service that connects you to British Sign Language Interpreters remotely through an app or a web-based platform, who then will relay the conversation with the call handler and emergency authorities. This service has been set up so that no deaf person will be excluded when they need to make an emergency call, therefore saving lives.
How to make a 999 BSL call?
There are two ways to reach the emergency services through 999 BSL:
- iOS and Android App (on a smartphone or tablet). Simply search for "999 BSL" on your phone and look for the above red image. Then download it to your phone.
- Web-based (www.999bsl.co.uk)
There are three very simple steps, you will need to:
- Open the app (download beforehand) or webpage
- Press the red button ‘Call 999 BSL now’
- Connect to an interpreter
When to use the 999 BSL service?
The 999 BSL service is for emergency situations only, for an example:
- if someone is seriously injured
- life is at risk
- being in danger or harm
- a serious offence is in progress or has just been committed.
For less urgent situations, please use Police 101 (wherever possible) or NHS111 through SignVideo – not 999 BSL, unless there is an emergency
For more information
For more information about the 999 BSL service, a list of FAQs, how to download the app, please visit the website www.999bsl.co.uk
Any questions, please email email@example.com
More resources (including more simple videos) are available on The Deaf Health Charity, Signhealth's website: