An online video service enabling Melton people who are deaf or hard of hearing to communicate with police using British Sign Language has been launched.
The innovative service, offered by Leicestershire Police, enables people who can’t use the force’s 101 telephone line to go online with a webcam where, within seconds, they will come face-to-face with a fully qualified sign language interpreter. The interpreter will take their message and pass it promptly to police 101 operators.
It works on any computer, tablet or phone connected to the Internet with a webcam.
The service, which is running as a pilot for six months, is available everyday between 8am and midnight. It is only to be used for non-emergency 101 calls, not the 999 emergency response line.
Leicestershire is only the second force in the country to offer the service which is being run by the not-for-profit social enterprise InterpreterNow.
Assistant Chief Constable Phil Kay said: “We’re very keen as a force to improve accessibility to our services. We understand how important it is for everyone within our communities to feel included and we want to provide them with a service that meets their needs. That includes the deaf community.”
The force already has a group of officers and staff who are trained in British Sign Language, known as the Police Link Officers for the Deaf (PLOD).
Sergeant Emma Gilbert, the manager of PLOD, said; “We recognise that British Sign Language users find it difficult to contact the police by telephone. To overcome this communication barrier we’ve teamed up with InterpreterNow.
“You will need to register for the service if you download the app or you can connect directly from your home computer – and all you need is a computer or device with a webcam and Internet connection. At the moment the service can only be used for non-emergency calls.”
John Maidens, managing director of InterpreterNow, said; “InterpreterNow is proud to be working with Leicestershire Police on this service, enabling deaf people to connect with the county’s police officers simply and instantly for the first time.
“Our hope is that other police forces follow this lead, to give deaf people across the country the access that hearing people take for granted. InterpreterNow’s ambition is to end the communication difficulties and isolation that deaf people face and to allow them to lead fuller and more connected lives.”