Scotland's national helpline for the LGBT community is now available to users of British Sign Language for the first time
A vital support service for the LGBT community has become more accessible.
Scotland’s national helpline which has supported lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people since November 2009 has become fully accessible to deaf users of British Sign Language (BSL) for the first time.
It is now the only LGBT+ helpline in the UK to be accessible to the deaf community.
Run by LGBT Health and Wellbeing with funding from the Scottish Government, the helpline provides information and emotional support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families, friends and supporters across Scotland.
It also provides support to those questioning or wanting to discuss their sexuality or gender identity. With email and live chat options also available, the helpline supported 1,155 people last year. However deaf people who do not have English as their first language have been unable to use the service until now.
LGBT Health and Wellbeing worked with Contact Scotland and Deaf Action to make the service inclusive to LGBT Deaf people. Helpline staff and volunteers received deaf awareness training as well as training in using Contact Scotland - the Scottish Government’s nationally funded BSL interpreting video relay service (VRS). The service enables BSL users to communicate with non-BSL users by interpreting their conversation in real time.
Stephen McCabe, helpline coordinator at LGBT Health and Wellbeing, said: “I’m just delighted that we are able to open up the helpline to LGBT+ people who have previously been unable to use it.
“One of the great things about the helpline is that it brings an LGBT-affirmative space directly to people who can’t bring themselves physically to an LGBT-affirmative space. Often this is due to disability, living in a remote area, or simply not being ready to be public about their identity.
“However, this wasn’t available to deaf people until now. It doesn’t matter whether it is five or 50 deaf people per year we reach - as long as nobody is barred from using our helpline simply because they are deaf”.
Leah Francisco, from Deaf Action, said: “I’m thrilled to see that LGBT Health and Wellbeing’s services are now more accessible to the deaf LGBT community. It is so important that it is accessible to them just like any other person. Hopefully this will help LGBT Health and Wellbeing services reach and support as many people as possible.”