Booking and using a sign language interpreter

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 it? (start time and latest finish time)
  • What is the event? (what is the programme, when break times, etc)
  • Where is it?
  • *Who is the Deaf person?* (information to provide once the booking has been made)
  • Is preparation material available? by when?
  • 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 1 interpreter to cover the session, discuss this with the interpreter/agency if unsure if the length of 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 (not necessarily cheapest way) use no. 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 might want to try no. 2 as well.

  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.

Contact details:

Leeds Sign Language Interpreting Service
Phone: 0113 2469990

Another useful contact is DeafStart:
Kim Homewood
Co Deaf START Lead/ Educational Interpreter

Adams Court
Kildare Terrace
Whitehall Road
Leeds City Council
LS12 1DB

Tel: 0113 395 1094


  1. Book your own free-lance interpreter via Yorkshire BSL Interpreters

There is 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.

Write an e-mail describing the event and some of the information bulleted above. 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 description of the individual information if you can, eg ‘16 year old local sign language user’. You might want to include a deadline for them to respond (although people are usually quite quick as they all have smartphones now). Send to the ‘contact-all’ link – they are all qualified interpreters and should only take on work they are competent to do.

Contact details: Yorkshire free-lance interpreters’ network

In addition – if you need to go further afield. There are national directories (these include people happy to travel to Leeds):

  1. The national register (you can also use this to check people’s qualifications/status, and to find people with specific communication skills such as interpreting for deafblind people, lipspeakers or speech to text reporters): National Registers of Communication Professionals Working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD)


  1. There are two professional associations with directories of their members:
    Association of Sign Language Interpreters:      Visual Language Professionals:

The assumption is that the Faculty/School or Service organising an event is responsible to budget for and coordinate access requirements of participants. There is a possibility that there may be funding to meet costs of interpreters. Do talk to the participant 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 also have a responsibility in meeting/putting reasonable adjustments in place to enable their staff attendance.

Below is a link to the Equality Service website which contains some good practice information which is relevant to those 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 check.

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 welcome to contact the Support Worker Team