Chair of Bournemouth Deaf Club says access to emergency services must improve

Bournemouth Deaf Club chair has urged emergency services to do more to accommodate deaf people. He welcomes the police’s plans to use the SignLive app. However, he says more needs to be done.

Matthew Kirby, Chair of Bournemouth Deaf Club, says that not enough is being done to assist deaf people in the UK.

“There needs to be an improvement in clinical services, for example GPs and hospitals. Both are very poor in meeting our needs and won’t use interpreters. If we go to A&E in an emergency, there is no time to find an interpreter at the last minute which can be very difficult. SignLive, however, can do it any time if necessary. To me it feels like deaf people are left behind with the emergency services.”

The SignLive App:

After Deaf Awareness week last week, Dorset Police announced on their Facebook page that they have extended access to their services. As a result, British Sign Language (BSL) users can now use the SignLive app or webpage to contact the police for non-emergency matters.

SignLive, a deaf-owned organisation based in the UK, provides BSL interpreting on a 24/7 basis. So, for many hearing-impaired people, it is a vital resource for navigating their day-to-day life.

Now, users of the service can start a video conversation with a BSL interpreter. Who will then contact the police and translate the conversation to a call handler. This service can be accessed by choosing Dorset Police from a list of organisations.

Matthew already uses SignLive for work. He is still pleased with the announcement and believes that it will make the service more convenient. He said:

“Using the app to contact the police will be very easy. You only need to download it to start the conversation with the police.”

Whilst SignLive is to only be used for non-emergencies, it is hoped that this will enable people who are hearing-impaired to have an easier way to contact the police. Sam de Reya, from Dorset Police, spoke to Dorset View magazine about the matter. She said:

“We are really pleased to launch this service and provide an innovative way to improve our contact channels to people who are deaf/hard of hearing. This opportunity to work alongside the professional interpreters from SignLive will enable us to reach out to those who may not have been able to contact us so easily in the past. We hope that this enables British Sign Language users to feel more comfortable in contacting us.”


According to the British Deaf Association, there are approximately 87,000 deaf people in the UK who use BSL as their preferred language. Many of these cannot use written or spoken English, and therefore face major barriers when trying to communicate with the emergency services.

Since deafness is the third most common disability in the world, it is important that more is done to ensure that hearing-impaired people have easier access to the services the UK provides. With Dorset Police extending their access to the SignLive app, this is the first step in the right direction. There are an estimated 9 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing, meaning that it is vital that further changes are made.

In the case of an emergency, hearing-impaired people can contact Dorset Police in several ways. Other than asking a hearing person to call 999, they can also dial 18000 on the Typetalk app, which will take them straight to an Emergency Services Operator. They can also use the 999-text service, in which the emergency services can be contacted immediately through a text message.


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