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#RightsReclaim campaign launch

What is the #RightsReclaim campaign?

Why we need the #RightsReclaim campaign

How you can get involved and support the #RightsReclaim campaign.

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NUBSLI is launching a new campaign called “Rights Reclaim” to support deaf communities and BSL/English interpreters and translators to fight back against the threats to deaf people’s rights and the BSL/English interpreter profession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic and lockdown restrictions have again highlighted the inequalities and barriers that deaf BSL users experience when accessing information and services, as well as the importance of the provision of interpreters and translators to enable access. Many deaf people have not been able to access health appointments during the pandemic as some health services have moved to only providing telephone and video appointments.

NUBSLI is concerned that there is a move to ‘normalise’ the use of Video Relay Services (VRS) which will make it harder for deaf people to access in-person interpreting in the future. NUBSLI is already aware of agencies who are planning to move to at least 50% VRS in the long term, after the pandemic is over.

Whilst VRS meets some deaf people’s needs, it does not meet everyone’s, and people who have not been able to use VRS services have been left behind during the pandemic as a result. To allow this to become the “new normal” would have a devastating effect on BSL interpreting and access for deaf communities in the long term. Deaf BSL users must have the right to choose and VRS should not be the only option available.

Agencies have used the pandemic to take advantage of interpreters and translators by pushing down fees and terms and conditions, and pressuring interpreters to accept pay that is unsustainable for the profession. To protect deaf people’s rights to good standards of access, interpreters and translators need to be paid enough to earn a living, without this, highly qualified and experienced professionals will be forced out of the profession, lowering the standard of interpreting for deaf people.

Samantha Riddle, NUBSLI Branch Secretary, said:

This campaign is about protecting everyone’s rights – deaf people’s right to access and to remain safe, and interpreters’ rights to be treated fairly as workers and professionals.

It is vital that interpreters and deaf people stand together to challenge this and reclaim our rights. NUBSLI will be developing this campaign over the coming months. We hope that deaf communities and all users of interpreting services will help us by supporting the campaign, as it is only by working together that will we protect and reclaim our rights…

NUBSLI has published an open letter, urging agencies and service providers to ensure that the rights of both deaf people and interpreters are respected, please add your name to this letter, below, to support the Rights Reclaim campaign.

Sign our open letter


We, the undersigned, are writing to request that as an agency that provides BSL/English interpreting and translation, you commit to supporting deaf people and the BSL/English interpreting and translation professions. We are concerned that the Covid-19 global pandemic is being used by some as a means of diminishing standards of access for deaf people, and the terms, conditions and pay for BSL/English interpreters and translators. This is not only unsustainable for those professions but is wholly unethical.

During the pandemic, deaf people have had to rely on the use of Video Relay Services (VRS) as a result of government-enforced restrictions. This has been as a response to an unprecedented global emergency and should not be pushed as a ‘solution’ for long term interpreting provision. Whilst VRS may meet some deaf people’s needs, it cannot meet all, and we have been made aware of agencies who are now committing to making their services 50% VRS as part of contract agreements. We are gravely concerned that safeguarding and access needs cannot possibly be met. Choice is paramount and to do this without any consultation, at a time of national emergency, cannot go unchallenged.

When the Covid-19 crisis is over, deaf people must be able to choose how their access needs are met – either face to face or via VRS. This crisis has shown that a large section of deaf people are being left behind and forgotten .

The reduction of fees for interpreters and translators is also of concern. This short term, opportunistic method of operating by some unscrupulous agencies is unsustainable and risks the future of the BSL/English interpreting and translation professions. During the pandemic, we have seen many interpreters lose the majority of their income and agencies capitalising on this by offering below-market fees and not supporting the profession that supplies their business is short-sighted at best, unethical at worst. Indeed, some interpreters have already decided to retrain so they can leave the profession entirely or reduce their working hours and we know many others who are considering similar action.

Without sufficient qualified interpreters and translators in the profession, deaf peoples’ access to health care and statutory services will be further limited. The consequences of which cannot be understated.

The impacts of Covid-19 must not be used as a tool to inflict permanent damage to the interpreting and translation professions and risk harming deaf people due to lack of access. We, therefore, demand that these practices cease immediately and that any proposals to alter models and methods of provision in future must not happen without prior consultations with the experts in this sector: deaf people and BSL/English interpreters and translators.

Signatures to our open letter

Once you add your name using the form above we will add your name to the open letter.

See who has already signed our open letter .

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