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ScotRail launches BSL app to help deaf customers

The app, described as a UK rail industry first, directly connects a traveller and a member of staff via an interpreter through a video call.

ScotRail is introducing a BSL app (Jane Barlow/PA)
ScotRail is introducing a BSL app (Jane Barlow/PA)

Train operator ScotRail is introducing a new British Sign Language (BSL) app to help deaf customers communicate with staff.

In what is being described as a first for the UK rail industry, the app directly connects someone travelling on their trains or at the platform to an interpreter through a video call.

The interpreter will then pass on the query to a member of staff and sign the answer back.

ScotRail access and inclusion manager, Andrew Marshall-Roberts, said: “We’re committed to making the railway open and accessible for all, and teaming up with InterpreterNow to launch this new app is just one of the ways we’re doing that.

“Customers using British Sign Language as their main form of communication can now have the confidence to travel by rail, knowing our people can help with any query they have in a simple, straightforward way.”

The app, which launches on Thursday, uses the InterpreterNow service and is open to “any part of their journey” – from information to disruption times to queries at stations or ticket offices.

Just knowing that access in your own language is available throughout your journey is not far off ground-breaking Andy Irvine, InterpreterNow

Andy Irvine, operations director at the tech firm, said: “We at InterpreterNow are delighted to have been working with ScotRail on this solution.

“Providing access for passengers by means of a simple app, for many may seem trivial, but for those who rely on British Sign Language, can be very reassuring and empowering.

“Just knowing that access in your own language is available throughout your journey is not far off ground-breaking.”

The move has been praised by charity deafscotland.

Chief officer Janis McDonald said: “deafscotland is pleased to see this collaboration between ScotRail and InterpreterNow and actively support the roll out across all ScotRail activity.

“We have campaigned for access, equality and citizenship for all those affected by deafness, and we see the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 promoting and supporting BSL development as well as ScotRail’s actions as a huge step towards access and integration through travel.

“We encourage British Sign Language users to register with InterpreterNow and take advantage of this progress and other service providers to consider similar action.”

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