Booking and using a sign language interpreter


BSL hand gestures

How to Book a Sign Language Interpreter

Before making a booking you will need to consider and potentially make available to the agency or interpreter the following information:

  • When is the interpreter required, and for how long? (dates of your event and start time and latest finish times)
  • What is the event? (what is the programme, break times, etc.)
  • Where is it?
  • Who is the Deaf person? (this information should be provided once the booking has been made)
  • Is preparation material available? When will it be available?
  • Who will the interpreter contact when they arrive?
  • Where to send the invoice/to whom?

If the event is for more than 2 hours you may need more than one interpreter to cover the session. Discuss this with the interpreter/agency if unsure whether the length of your session requires multiple interpreters working.

When booking an interpreter for an event, or lecture series, you may also need to consider if the individual will need BSL access during break times, e.g. to network or during lunch breaks in order to communicate with peers/other delegates. Do consider non-formal elements of events and teaching.

Interpreters and agencies can have limited availability at short notice, where possible you should allow at least 3-4 weeks to book an interpreter/agency to give you a better chance of identifying someone who is available (the earlier the better).

Costs will vary with freelance interpreters and between agencies and there will often be additional costs such as travel costs which the interpreter/agency will advise you on.

Ways to Find an Interpreter

For ease (though not necessarily the cheapest option), it is recommended to use Option 1. They have their own interpreters but act like an agency booking free-lance people. However, if they say they are unlikely to be able to find anyone, you may wish to try Option 2 as well.

Option 1: Leeds Sign Language Interpreting Service

If you are booking interpreters for the first time – I imagine you might find it easier to talk it through on the phone. They will advise you if you need one or two interpreters and how much this is likely to cost (there will be a travel charge, so it may depend which interpreter and where they are coming from). The website includes info on how to book, and work with, an interpreter.

Leeds Sign Language Interpreting Service
Tel: 0113 246 9990

Another useful contact:

Kim Homewood, Deaf START Lead/Educational Interpreter
Tel: 0113 395 1094
Address: Adams Court, Kildare Terrace, Whitehall Road, Leeds City Council, LS12 1DB

Option 2: Book your own free-lance interpreter via Yorkshire BSL Interpreters

There is also a website with a list of around 20 local interpreters, and some general information. You can e-mail them all at the same time.  (There is also a link to a similar North East list.)

Use the Contact Form to contact all listed interpreters (you can also contact interpreters individually), describing the event and providing some information about your event. Do not include the Deaf person’s name, but do include the information listed at the top of this document, if possible, along with some non-identifying information about the individual if you can, e.g. ‘16 year old local sign language user’. You may wish to include a deadline for them to respond. All the interpreters listed are qualified and should only take on work they are competent to do.

Yorkshire Free-lance Interpreters’ Network

If you need to go further afield

There are national directories (these include people happy to travel to Leeds):

Option 3: The National Register

You can also use this service to check people’s qualifications/status, and to find people with specific communication skills such as interpreting for deafblind people, lip speakers or speech to text reporters):

National Registers of Communication Professionals Working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD)

Option 4: Profession Associations

There are two professional associations with directories of their members:

Association of Sign Language Interpreters

Visual Language Professionals

The assumption is the Faculty, School or Service organising the event is responsible to budget for and coordinate access requirements of participants. Funding is sometimes available to meet costs of interpreters, so do talk to the participant beforehand, as they may be aware of funding they are able to access. For staff at the University, the member of staff’s Faculty, School or Service has a responsibility in meeting/putting reasonable adjustments in place to enable their staff’s attendance.

See our good practice guidance for further help with organising events.

When you have found a Potential Interpreter

  • Check their terms and conditions – these might include payment within 30 days, so do advise them that University payments could take up to two months if their invoice misses the next payroll date.
  • Cancellation – it is common practice that no fee is charged if the interpreter is cancelled 15 days or more before the event (half fee 8-15 days, full fee 7 days or less) – but it’s a good ideal to check beforehand.

Things to Remember

Registered interpreters:

  • Are trained and qualified
  • Should not accept work beyond their skills and knowledge
  • Have professional indemnity insurance
  • Should be able to show you an enhanced DBS check from the last 3 years
  • Have a code of practice and complaints procedure through the national register

For general advice on how you could contract interpreters, or other logistical issues in relation to sourcing support workers, you are also welcome to contact the Support Worker Team.