Online booking for sign interpreters

Glasgow City Council has launched an online booking service for sign language interpreters in a bid to promote social inclusion...

Glasgow City Council has launched an online booking service for sign language interpreters in a bid to promote social inclusion and empower deaf people. The council believes this is the first service of its kind in Europe, writes Karl Cushing.

The online sign language interpreting service Web site gives deaf people the chance to book interpreting services independently, on a 24x7 basis, without having to go through a hearing person. The council benefits from reduced costs of administering the service.

There is also a fax and telephone booking service that is available during office hours.

Users can gain access to information on the availability of sign language interpreting services in and around Glasgow. The Web site includes frequently asked questions, advice on how to become a sign language interpreter and a feedback service. It also has links to other organisations working in the field of deafness, such as Deaf Blind Scotland, Deaf Connections and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.

The project manager Crawford Blunden explains that the project has three streams. The Web site itself is the first stream. The second is the ability to book interpreters online and the third is the ability for users to register on a central database, including details of any special needs or preferences they may have - for a male or female interpreter, for example. This should also provide greater support to health and police sectors where deaf people need interpreting services, especially in emergency situations.

The creation of the database of users' needs, for which deaf people are encouraged to register as early as possible, is a key enabler for the project. Blunden says that the database will help the service to predict users' needs in the future. By quoting an identity number users will not have to give all their details every time they use the service. This is very useful as a lot of the users have very distinct needs, says Blunden.

The council is currently working with local firm Digital Animations Group to develop an onscreen avatar for the Web site. This will use sign language to help guide users through the options and services available. There are also plans to launch a network of Internet kiosks in public places next year. The adoption of videoconferencing technology will broaden the scope of the project yet further.

Blunden explains that the council aims to transform the Web site into a sort of community portal for the deaf community, making it a valuable source of news and upcoming events. He hopes the project will be promoted further afield as best practice.

The project has been funded by the Scottish Executive and Glasgow City Council and has been designed by IT services firm Sx3, which has been working in partnership with the council.

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