British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan 2017-2023: analysis of consultation responses

The report sets out the analysis of the public consultation on Scotland's draft British Sign Language (BSL) National Plan.


Goal: BSL users will have safe, fair and inclusive access to public transport and the systems that support all transport use in Scotland.

Steps to be taken by 2023 are:

Implement the recommendations of 'Going Further: Scotland's Accessible Travel Framework' which has been developed with disabled people, including BSL users. Key actions in the framework include:

36. Ensuring that transport users, including BSL users, can participate in the on-going feedback process of the framework.

37. Researching technological solutions for providing accessible information in transport hubs (like train stations, airports etc.)

38. Creating guidance on how to contact transport providers when things go wrong on a journey.

39. Developing training for transport providers which includes strategies for communicating with BSL users.

Question 19: Do you think these are the right steps under Transport?

In total, 83 people or groups answered Question 19. Of these 87% agreed that these are the right steps under Transport, 4% disagreed, and 10% said they did not know.

Question 20 - Please tell us why you think this.

Question 21 - If there are there any additional steps, or potential solutions that you think could be added to the Transport section, please tell us.

Around 75 people or groups made a written / BSL comment about Transport and it was discussed at around 40 events.

General comments included that transport is vital to ensure Deaf / Deafblind BSL users can access all the other services they need, and that Deaf / Deafblind BSL users often rely heavily on public transport. Several people described particular difficulties they have faced while travelling and it was noted that there is no mention of wheelchair users who are Deaf / Deafblind BSL users.

It was also suggested that the BSL version of 'Going Further: Scotland's Accessible Travel Framework' is poor and too long.

Participate in the feedback process of the framework (Step 36)

Comments people made about this action included:

  • This is important because Deaf / Deafblind BSL users need to be involved to make sure that what really matters to them is properly understood and that the support they need is provided. The Transport Accessibility Steering Group (which is part of Transport Scotland) should involve Deaf / Deafblind BSL users.
  • The Accessible Travel Framework needs to be more informed about the roles of BSL / English interpreters and guide/communicators.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

  • Transport Scotland should employ a BSL Communications Officer to focus on the transport goal for the Scottish Government. This person would be the main point of contact for transport businesses and would play a valuable role in improving public transport.

Provide accessible information in transport hubs (Step 37)

Comments people or groups made about this step included:

  • Although there was general support for providing accessible information in transport hubs, people also suggested that such information is needed on all public transport. There were also several comments about how the procedures and support available varies between different bus companies, train stations and airports.
  • Systems to make public announcements/notifications accessible are needed for Deaf / Deafblind BSL users. Transport providers need to take responsibility for people being able to complete their journey if things go wrong, including when people are using different types of transport as part of a single journey.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

  • contactSCOTLAND- BSL should be promoted to enable easier contact with transport providers. It should be available 24/7.
  • Awareness of the Access Support Card could be increased.
  • There should be more assistance and easy access to information at airports, stations, on buses and on ferries. Staff with basic BSL, better visual aids and tactile resources should be available.
  • Using visual prompts in waiting areas rather than signs in English could be considered.
  • There should be working induction loops on all buses.

A range of specific technological solutions were also suggested including:

  • BSL phone apps for airports, train or emergency information, for taxis, and for tracking buses.
  • Registering with transport providers to receive updates via texts. The registration system could be similar to the emergency SMS service.
  • A video relay service supplier that can be used to get information and updates in BSL. This service should be 24/7.
  • Seeking out and share examples of best practice and technological solutions in Scotland and around the world. Examples given included visual displays on Lothian Buses to indicate the address or name of street of the next stop.

Guidance when things go wrong on a journey (Step 38)

Some of the comments made under Step 37 also applied to Step 38.

Comments people or groups made about this step included:

  • The main problem with transport for Deaf / Deafblind BSL users is communication particularly about disruption to transport plans and unscheduled changes.
  • From a safety point of view, how do ferry or train staff know there is a Deaf / Deafblind BSL user on board in the event of an emergency.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

  • A BSL Communications Officer could develop guidance for public transport - how, who, what, where, when to contact if their journey goes wrong.
  • There needs to be a clear procedure for telling staff that you are Deaf / Deafblind. This could be like a Personal Evacuation Plan a Deaf /Deafblind person would have if they were staying in a hotel.
  • Since Deafblind tactile BSL users are unable to get information when things go wrong without a companion or guide/communicator, the cost of rail travel for this companion should be free.
  • Guidance is needed on how to get refunds for delayed journeys. Where to get information and how to make complaints without needing to wait for an interpreter.

Training for transport providers including for communicating with Deaf / Deafblind BSL users (Step 39)

Comments people or groups made about this step included:

  • Some train companies already have staff who can sign so others should do the same. This suggests that the 2023 target is not ambitious enough.
  • Many people described difficulties, embarrassment and frustration communicating with bus drivers. A separate National Entitlement card for Deaf / Deafblind BSL users would help.
  • The "hands-off" policy that prevents train staff touching a Deaf / Deafblind person to attract their attention can cause embarrassment if the alternative actions attract the attention of other passengers too. Many Deaf / Deafblind people are happy to be touched on the shoulder.

Suggestions made or ideas people or groups had included:

  • All staff who work with the public should have Deaf Awareness and/or BSL Awareness training. There is also need for BSL awareness at senior management level, to ensure that strategies and policies do not discriminate against Deaf / Deafblind BSL users.
  • Training must include awareness of Deafblindness. Deafblind Scotland already deliver training for ScotRail staff on how to communicate with Deafblind BSL users and this could be extended to all public transport staff who deal with passengers.
  • Transport providers should have visual route maps or a list of stops at drivers' windows so that Deaf / Deafblind BSL users can point or indicate to drivers where they are getting off.
  • Additional documentation could be issued to Deaf / Deafblind BSL users (including journey itinerary with the tickets) which might be presented to transport staff to explain the person's aims and limitations / challenges.

Other comments / suggestions on Transport

  • If a Deafblind person requires a guide/communicator then that guide/communicator should have free travel when accompanying the Deafblind person.
  • Transport should continue to be free for Deaf / Deafblind BSL users as this promotes independence.
  • There should be career opportunities for Deaf BSL users in the Transport sector.
  • The Scottish Government recently announced plans to explore franchising bus networks. A clear plan for ensuring accessibility for Deaf / Deafblind BSL Users could be required within any bid. This should also be explored in relation to other transport franchises.


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