House of Commons: Sign Language

House of Commons Commission written question – answered on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Graham Jones Graham Jones Chair, Committees on Arms Export Controls (formerly Quadripartite Committee)

To ask the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, representing the House of Commons Commission, what discussions the Commission has had on establishing in-house BSL interpretation service for deaf visitors.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Duchy of Lancaster)

The House of Commons provides a range of British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation services for visitors to the Palace of Westminster and currently holds the Action on Hearing Loss ‘Louder than Words’ charter mark, which is re-accredited every three years.

Visitors on a commercial, ticketed tour can choose a BSL self-guided option which has been tested and approved by a range of deaf groups.

Visitors on a democratic access tour can also choose a BSL self-guided option, although in most cases a BSL signer would be booked and made available. The bicameral Visitor Services team has booked 35 BSL interpreters for visitors attending tours or watching parliamentary business, such as select committees, since the start of 2018. BSL interpretation can also be provided for visiting schools, although in most cases the schools themselves will bring their own interpreter.

The House is investigating the provision of a basic level of BSL training across the Visitor Services team. Training staff to a sufficiently high level of expertise to lead or interpret tours or other visiting activities has to date proved difficult due to the level and duration of training required combined with the frequency of staff turnover. The Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster is expected to provide an opportunity for wider improvements in relation to accessibility and inclusion, including interpretation.

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