Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 16:09 UK

Web link-up with deaf translators

Sign language
Deaf and hard of hearing people will link up live to an interpreter

Deaf people living in North Lanarkshire who use British Sign Language (BSL) will be among the first in Scotland to be offered an interpreter via the web.

The local authority has introduced the facility at advice centres in Airdrie and Motherwell, where users can access a live link-up to a BSL specialist.

The computer screen will be split into two, showing both the translator and the service user while they speak.

For many deaf people BSL is a first and preferred means of communication.

Laurann Cuthbertson, chairperson of the North Lanarkshire Deaf Forum, welcomed the service.

She said: "The problem in the past was that deaf people can't phone the council themselves, they have to ask someone to phone for them.

"This service is a big change for the deaf community in North Lanarkshire which will give them independence. Now they don't have to rely on someone else.

"The service will give deaf people more confidence to gain a better quality of service from the council."

Councillor John Pentland, convener of policy and resources, said the local authority was the first in Scotland to offer the service.

He said: "We are creating an effective communication channel between the council and our deaf and hard of hearing community, which will enable all requests for services and enquiries to be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

"We are committed to continually working to improve customer services and this will give the deaf and hard of hearing community the same access to services as all other customer groups."

The service for deaf and hard of hearing people is available between 0900 BST and 1200 BST in Airdrie on Tuesdays and in Motherwell on Thursdays.

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