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British Sign Language

Our British Sign Language plan (BSL plan) supports the Scottish Government’s national goal to make information and services across the public sector available to BSL users*.

It is important to us that all of our stakeholders are aware of who we are, what we do and how they can contact us. BSL users should be able to easily access information about all of our functions and be confident about being able to communicate with us. This plan closely follows the Scottish Government’s BSL National Plan by setting out the actions we intend to take to promote and support BSL users (including tactile BSL) over the period covering 2018 to 2024.

Our plan was developed with the help of a BSL Reference Group, made up of representatives from the BSL community. We will continue to engage with users throughout the lifetime of this plan, and will report back on our progress against identified actions. We will also contribute to the Scottish Government’s national progress report in 2020.

You can read our BSL plan here.

Alternatively, you can view the plan in BSL by watching the video below.




The individual parts of our BSL plan video can be viewed be clicking on the links below:

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Our work and what we do
2.1 Scottish public services
2.2 Democracy
3. Contact us


* Wherever we refer to ‘BSL users’ we mean D/deaf and /or Deafblind people (those who receive the language in a tactile form due to sight loss) whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language

contactSCOTLAND-BSL is a Scottish Government funded online BSL interpreting video relay service (VRS) that allows Deaf BSL users to contact all of Scotland’s third sector organisations as well as all Scottish public bodies. Of course, all third sector and public bodies can also contact BSL users in return.

Within Scotland there is an estimated 5,000 – 7,000 Deaf BSL users who have BSL as their first or preferred choice to communication. Many of whom may have a preference to access information in sign language rather than by written material. contactSCOTLAND-BSL offers ‘real-time’ interpretation there and then to make initial contact and enquiries.

contactSCOTLAND-BSL is not funded to replace the requirement for the provision of face-to-face BSL/English Interpreters. An example of good use of the service would be a BSL user calling, via the online interpreter, a voluntary organisation to make an appointment to meet with an advisor to discuss participation within a given project. At this point, arrangements for an interpreter to attend the scheduled meeting should be made. What cannot happen, is when the appointment takes place, the online interpreting service being used in place of a face-to-face interpreter.

Service outline

Deaf BSL users, in the main (around 94%), call the service via a smartphone or tablet that has the contactSCOTLAND-BSL app installed. Service providers like yourself only require a telephone to receive calls or to make calls to deaf people. To make a call to a deaf person all you have to do is call contactSCOTLAND-BSL on 0131 510 4555 and ask for the person by name, or if known, their extension number. The online interpreter will then contact the user and relay the call.

The remaining calls, 6% or so, come from desktops/laptops using a web browser.

contactSCOTLAND-BSL has created an online presentation which provides an overview that covers the main points of the service. This has been created in response to frequently asked questions and is updated periodically. Please feel free to circulate/cascade the following URL/link as you feel appropriate: https://contactscotland-bsl.org/online-presentation/ - this is where the most up to date version will be available.

What can you do?

To assist you in making your services accessible to BSL users contactSCOTLAND-BSL has created a ‘button’ that can be integrated within your website contact us pages and in your email signatures. An example of this button can be found on the foot of the OSCR homepage. Buttons and other resources can be found here: https://contactscotland-bsl.org/resources

Please attach the following hyperlink to the button: https://contactscotland-bsl.org/device-direct/

Recently, and as a requirement of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, Sottish public bodies have been required to produce BSL National and Local Plans which outline how they will promote the use of BSL within their services and how they will implement inclusion of Deaf BSL users in planning and delivery of services. Many, if not all, have taken on board the inclusion and promotion of contactSCOTLAND-BSL to meet part of the requirements.

Although, Third Sector organisations do not fall into the requirements of the BSL plans, many organisations have already embraced contactSCOTLAND-BSL as a means of promoting access for Deaf BSL users.

For any further information, please contact contactSCOTLAND-BSL on 0333 344 7712 or at info@contactscotland-bsl.org

We have an ongoing commitment to improve access to our information and services for BSL users. We continually try and improve our accessibility and promote our services through social media and our website.

We have a number of pieces of BSL content and where we feel demand has been identified, we aim to translate other pieces of guidance. 

If you have identified a need for guidance or other information in a BSL version, please contact us:

  • via contactSCOTLAND-BSL
  • by email - info@oscr.org.uk
  • by post - OSCR, 2nd Floor, Quadrant House, 9 Riverside Drive, Dundee
    DD1 4NY