BT Press Releases

DC11-270                                                                             November 8, 2011

BT trials British Sign Language access to its customer services

BT and social business, SignVideo, announced today that BT has begun a trial that enables people who are deaf to communicate with BT’s customer service teams using British Sign Language (BSL) via video relay.

BT wants to ensure that its products and services are available to everyone – whatever their need. It already provides a range of options for customers to make contact in a way that suits them best: e-mail, textphone, live chat, as well as letter and telephone are all supported, this trial extends that range.

The technology behind the trial is provided by southeast London-based social business, SignVideo, which is led and run by deaf people. Access to BT customer services from anywhere in the UK has been made available through SignVideo’s web-based solution – BSL LIVE. SignVideo believes that this is the first time a FTSE 100 company has offered sign-language relay.

BSL LIVE is SignVideo's unique cloud application that connects deaf people, who are unable to use the phone, with customer contact centres via an on-line video interpreter. It works in conjunction with web-cams and enables communication to flow in real time over two links – the online video link and the phone line.

Warren Buckley, managing director customer service BT, said: “We hope that the trial will make it easier for our customers who prefer to communicate in BSL to contact us. BT is determined to be inclusive and we hope that through this trial, the innovative use of technology will mean that deaf people need no longer suffer the frustration that can occur when trying to manage their communications services.”

Customers can access the new contact facility via www.bt.com/bsl.They will be connected to the SignVideo Translation Service and a BSL interpreter will make the connection to BT’s customer-services. The interpreter will then relay BSL to voice and vice versa. Customers will need to have a computer with video capability and broadband. The call will be free of charge, as it is to call any BT customer-service number. It will be available from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

The trial will be promoted amongst the deaf community and it will test whether BSL access to customer service is something that customers will really want to use. It will last for six months.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey, said: “This trial will offer people who are deaf and hard of hearing a greater choice in how they contact BT. I hope other organisations will recognise the importance of BSL and offer it as a way to communicate with them.”

Ruth Myers, chairman of TAG, said: "TAG warmly welcomes BT's offer to make it possible for British Sign Language users to contact BT in their own language. Similarly we hope all businesses will make a range of contact options available for deaf consumers".

Notes to editors

• BT has been providing assistance and services for older and disabled customers since 1984, so that they can make the most out of communications products and services. For more information visit www.bt.com/includingyou.
• BT provides and manages the national Text Relay service on behalf of the communications industry.
• BT was the first FTSE100 company to provide content on its website in BSL.

SignVideo

For photos and/or further information about SignVideo, contact Helen Wallen, People & Communications Manager, on 020 843 1126 or by e-mail on helenw@signvideo.co.uk.

• SignVideo provides instant access to highly qualified BSL interpreters through its network of hi-tech video contact centres in London, Edinburgh and Oxford.
• SignVideo is the UK’s market leader for on-line video interpreting. For further information please visit www.signvideo.co.uk