Research has highlighted the need for solicitors to learn British Sign Language (BSL) so that deaf people have the same access to legal advice as their hearing counterparts.
The research, published last week to coincide with Deaf Awareness Week, found that 85% of deaf people prefer to receive advice directly from a legal adviser using BSL rather than indirectly through a BSL interpreter.
The research, carried out by the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) Deaf Law Centre, led to the creation of a website encouraging interested professionals to learn five BSL phrases a day. It is hoped that firms using the scheme will go on to allow solicitors to be fully trained in BSL.
Bristol firm TLT has already appointed 10 ‘deaf champions’ and, according to its equality and diversity officer Lee Reed (pictured), is working with the RAD Deaf Law Centre ‘to improve access to legal services and provide a supportive working environment for the deaf and hard of hearing’.
RAD Deaf Law Centre head Rob Wilks said: ‘Legal advice from a solicitor who uses BSL is vital in order for deaf people to be able to fully understand what can be a very complex legal language – talking person to person rather than through a third party.
‘At the centre we use webcam portals so that a deaf person anywhere in the country can receive legal advice from a solicitor who uses BSL.’