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Booking a sign language interpreter


Things to consider before you book an 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, start time and the latest possible finish time).
  • What is the event? (What is the programme, are there break times, etc.)
  • Where is it?
  • When making initial enquiries provide some non-identifying information about the requirements of the individual seeking interpretation if you can, but do not include their name.
  • Is preparation material (such as the meeting agenda) available in advance? When will it be made available?
  • Who will the interpreter contact when they arrive?
  • Where can they send the invoice and to whom?
  • How many interpreters are required? If the event is for more than 2 hours you may need more than one interpreter. Interpreting can be very tiring, even for an expert, so the interpreter will need enough breaks throughout the day to provide a professional and accurate service. Discuss this with the interpreter/agency if you are unsure.
  • Don’t expect the interpreter to work through breaks, unless you’ve agreed this with them beforehand. Does the individual need access to a BSL interpreter during break times, e.g. to network, or during lunch breaks in order to communicate with peers/other delegates? Do consider the non-formal elements of events and teaching.

Interpreters and agencies can have limited availability at short notice, so where possible you should allow at least 3-4 weeks’ notice to book an interpreter/agency.


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

Ask the Faculty, School or Service organising the event about the budget and assistance available to accommodate the access requirements of participants. Funding is sometimes available to meet costs of interpreters, so do speak with the participant beforehand, as they may be aware of funding sources they are able to access. For staff at the University, speak with the member of staff’s Faculty, School or Service about meeting/putting reasonable adjustments in place to enable their staff's attendance.

See our good practice guidance for further advice on making your events accessible events.

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

Ways to find an interpreter

For ease these options are listed in order of recommendation.

Option 1: Local agency

Leeds Sign Language Interpreting Service
Phone: 0113 246 9990

Another useful local contact:
Kim Homewood, Deaf START Lead/Educational Interpreter
Phone: 0113 378 5296

Option 2: Book a freelance interpreter

Yorkshire BSL Interpreters is a database of freelance British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters from the Yorkshire region. All the individuals listed are fully qualified and work locally in a freelance capacity.

Use the Yorkshire BSL Interpreters Contact Form to contact all listed interpreters or view the list of all the individual interpreters available and select those to contact separately. When making initial enquiries describe the event and some non-identifying information about the individual requiring interpretation if you can e.g. ‘16 year old local sign language user’, but do not include their name. You may wish to include a deadline which would be helpful for them to respond by.

Option 3: National directories

There are national directories that include BSL interpreters willing to travel to Leeds. For example the National Registers of Communication Professionals Working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD)  allows you to search for an interpreter by specific communication skills, such as interpreting for deafblind people, lip speakers or speech to text reporters.

Option 4: Profession Associations

 There are two professional associations with directories of their members:

Association of Sign Language Interpreters

Visual Language Professionals

Things to consider when you have found a potential interpreter

  • Check their terms and conditions – these might include payment within 30 days, so check whether this is possible, or agree alternative arrangements.
  • 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 idea to check beforehand.

Registered interpreters:

  • Are trained and qualified
  • Should not accept work beyond their skills and knowledge
  • Have professional indemnity insurance
  • Should be able to evidence an enhanced CRB check
  • Have a code of practice and complaints procedure through the national register