Gloucestershire Constabulary has signed up to an exciting service that offers deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) easier access to the county’s 101 service.

BSL users are now able to contact police in the county via the SignLive Community Directory, which allows them to connect via video link to a BSL interpreter who will then talk to a call handler and interpret back to them.

Inspector Tim Hutchinson, who has suffered hearing problems of his own, wanted to give BSL users confidence to report incidents to the police and felt it would make the police more accessible to them, a key priority of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.

The service is free of charge to the user, is simple and easy to use and does not require any pre-booking.

It gives BSL users greater access to services from a range of public service and business providers.

Yesterday a group BSL users were given a tour of the county’s contact centre in Quedgeley tomorrow as part of the launch of the service.

Inspector Hutchinson, who works in the Force’s control room, said: “Anecdotally we know that BSL users find that this gives them far greater independence.

“Calling the police or any public service can be a daunting prospect for deaf people and can contribute to victims not coming forward and incidents going unreported, which is not good for us or them.

“This service, provided by SignLive, is a fantastic tool and one that I hope will be embraced by BSL users in the county.”

GDA (Gloucestershire Deaf Association) is working with the Constabulary to raise awareness of the service with BSL users.

Reg Cobb, Project Development Manager for GDA, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Gloucestershire Constabulary to benefit people living with deafness across the county.

“All over the UK, communication between the police and the deaf community has been somewhat strained due to a lack of appropriate communication tools, so this is a great step forward in bridging the gap, while also helping to keep our deaf and hard of hearing population safe.

“GDA welcomes Gloucestershire Constabulary’s launch of SignLive as part of our charity’s mission to make Gloucestershire the most deaf-friendly county in the UK.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said: “It’s really important to me that no one is overlooked when it comes to accessing Gloucestershire’s policing service. I’m delighted that the Constabulary is taking this important step to make itself even more accessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and shows its commitment to the Accessibility and Accountability priority in my Police and Crime Plan.”