Sign Language with Tell


Holly Cowley
Holly Cowley

September 9th, 2021

Widen your audience with BSL-supported events!

We’ve all seen TV programmes with the person in the bottom right corner gesturing along with the action of the show. Some of us may have gone to school with students who have had assisted learning with mackintosh or BSL. Sign language has been an official language since 2003 and was the preferred language of 145,000 people in the UK as of 2011, with British Sign Language describing it as ‘a visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expression and body language’. It is utilised by a range of people including Deaf individuals, those with hearing impairments, and non-verbal people.


Rightfully so, there is a demand for BSL interpreters to be available in a range of contexts; in theatres, for TV programs, doctors appointments, even in universities. We, therefore, felt it was crucial to offer BSL interpretations for all of our services to ensure we are encouraging accessible practice in both ourselves and our clientele. Not only that, but increasing the potential reach to a whole new audience. From our experiences so far, we have identified some of the most important factors you need to consider to provide a successful BSL feed.


First of all, planning is essential. Much like with any event or performance, running orders, line-ups and clearly marked out cues are important to ensuring everything runs smoothly. British Sign Language interpreters have an incredibly important job, one which takes a lot of concentration and a high-level of accuracy. Therefore, it can also be quite a tiring role. For this reason we usually suggest having more than one interpreter for an event that has multiple guest speakers or is particularly long. This means the workload is shared and more manageable. Each interpreter should be assigned a specific speaker and everyone should be aware of who they are working with to ensure that the right speaker and interpreter are working alongside each other. This requires a lot of preparation beforehand and clear communication between the entire team.


Additionally, ensuring both our team and the client’s team are well-rehearsed is essential. It is crucial to provide tech run-throughs, as many of our clients are new to remote events. This is especially important when your event is accompanied by live BSL interpretations. All too often during events, speakers are given a very specific time slot in which to deliver their material, and to stick to this time slot they may speak particularly fast. However, it is important to be considerate of how fast your BSL interpreter can translate information. To ensure all information is delivered smoothly and clearly, we encourage speakers and interpreters to have a few rehearsals together in the run up to the event. Not only does this improve the clarity of the event but also reminds the speakers that slowing down is exceptionally helpful to fully utilise BSL.


The term ‘sign language’ itself is somewhat of an umbrella term. While British Sign Language is the most commonly used sign language in the UK, it is not the only one. Nor is it used outside of the UK. One of the beauties of virtual events is the freedom to connect with audiences outside of your own country. For that reason, we provide multilingual streaming services. So, why wouldn't we do the same for different variations of sign language? We will work to find the right sign language interpreter for the specific requirements of your event and your audiences.


Finally, it is important to maximise the accessibility of your event. Not only do we offer BSL feeds, but we are also more than happy to add closed captions. There are syntactical differences in the way BSL is structured. As a result, the information viewers receive won’t always be a literal translation of what is said. Rather, the content will be relayed and localised as appropriate. Captions offer that literal translation so the audience can receive a description of sound effects, read information an interpreter may have missed, and see names as they are spelled out letter by letter.


Though there are a few things to consider to heighten the experience of your event, in essence, providing BSL feeds is an easy adjustment to make! Your interpreters join the call at the same time, in the same way, as your speakers. It’s on us to provide the mix that creates a seamless transition between both speakers and interpreters. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to provide accessible options for your audience so that when you decide to make the switch to BSL services, you don't even think twice when you say yes!