Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 12:23 UK

Olympic crew's sign of the times

Andrew Thomson
Andrew Thomson established Sign-tube in 2006

A team of web enthusiasts from Grangemouth, near Falkirk, is travelling to Taiwan to gather footage of this year's Deaflympics.

Andrew Thomson, 45, and his crew are filming the games, where 4,000 athletes are competing - including 200 from the UK, for the Sign-tube site.

The service, which attracts about one million hits a month, is considered the "deaf version" of YouTube.

Established in 2006, the site was developed for the deaf community.

Mr Thomson, who has been deaf since birth, said the site provided video phone links, public information, filming and translation services and allowed those in the deaf community "total freedom of speech".

He is frustrated at a lack of provision for himself and others like him when it comes to accessing information and public services and is keen to remove the barriers.

'Daily basis'

He said: "Our aim is that Sign-tube will enable the deaf community to communicate, socialise and express their thoughts and views in their first language, British Sign Language.

"There are about 70,000 BSL users in Britain and most have limited access to information and services because it's not available in their first language."

Initially developed as a social networking site for deaf people, the site was commissioned by NHS 24 to translate swine flu information into British Sign Language.

Mr Thomson said he was hopeful the service would eventually be used by organisations such as the police and local government to avoid the costs and delays associated with interpreters.

In response to a lack of interest from mainstream media about the Deaflympics, Mr Thomson and his team are heading out to Taipei to cover the games.

He added: "We will upload the coverage on a daily basis to the website to enable the deaf community to engage in what is essentially their right, the ability to enjoy and experience their Olympics.

"Hopefully we will raise the profile not only of the games and the 4,000 athletes but also for Sign-tube and Falkirk."

The Sign-tube team are due to leave for Taipei on Thursday 3 September.



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