British Sign Language

… or BSL, is a visual means of communication which uses hand movements, gestures, body language and facial expression to communicate. Like any spoken language BSL is a complete language which has its own structure, grammar, vocabulary and regional variation. In the UK there are over 70,000 (not sure if statistics are accurate) people whose preferred, or first language, is BSL. Other sign methods, such as Signed English or Sign Supported English (SSE), use signs from BSL but follow the same structure and word order as spoken English. Deafblind manual and ‘Hands-on’ sign language are tactile forms of communication for people who have some form of sight and hearing loss.

Deafblind manual

… is a system whereby the interpreter spells out each word individually on the receiver’s hand using the deafblind manual alphabet. This is mainly (but not always) the preferred method of communication for people who have had sight and hearing loss from birth.


… is a system very similar to deafblind manual where each word is spelt out individually but here they use block capital letters instead of the deafblind manual alphabet.

‘Hands on’ (or ‘hand-over-hand’) sign language

… is a system whereby recipient places their hands over the interpreters in order to receive communication. This system is mainly (but not always) used by people whose first language is BSL but have perhaps lost their sight later in life. ‘Hands-on-BSL’ is a way for native BSL users who have developed some kind of sight loss to continue using their preferred means of communication.

Deaf Awareness/Top tips/Working with LSP’s

  • When working with someone who’s first or preferred language is BSL/Deafblind manual/’Hands-on’ BSL, the first thing to do is book appropriate LSP. If there is no one available then it is highly recommended to reschedule until someone is available to ensure effective communication. Here are some tips on working with an interpreter and deaf client:
  • When working with an interpreter, please make sure to send any appropriate documents or other forms of preparation material in advance of the job.
    Please speak at your normal pace, interpreters are trained to go and full speed! If there are any issues the interpreter will inform you.
  • When working with a deaf client, please do not shout. Shouting distorts your lip pattern which can make it difficult for lip readers to understand what it is you are saying. It also alters your facial expression and can sometimes come across aggressive.
    When working with any LSP it is important to think about positioning. LSP’s should be able to hear the speaker(s) and also a comfortable distance away from the person receiving the communication.

Our BSL/English Interpreters

Here at Sign Language Interactions we have a vast pool of BSL/English interpreters. Both our in-house and freelance staff are qualified and graded professionals who are regulated by either SASLI or NRCPD and all have undergone Disclosure Scotland/PVG checks. Our interpreters work in a variety of situations ranging from one-to-one meetings all the way through to large scale conferences. The domains in which our interpreters work include, social work, council, medical, legal, theatre, community, business and many more!

What to do next

… Remember to send any preparation materials to us ahead of time to ensure the best service possible from out LSP’s.