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Caithness News Bulletins April 2003

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Caithness Deaf Care      

A significant new service is about to be launched for deaf people in the Highlands. NHS Highland and The Highland Council have jointly commissioned The Deaf Society to develop a Communication Support Service.

Based at Volunteering Highland, Millburn Road, Inverness, the new service will begin in mid-May and will initially be delivered by sign language interpreter, Helen Farrelly, who is currently project manager with The Highland Council’s deaf communication project, based in Dingwall.  It is planned to expand the service in the future with sessional workers employed across the Highlands.

Pictured from left are: - Roseann Cameron (Community Planning Officer with NHS Highland), Sandy Riddell, Kevin Geddes (Service Provision Manager with the Deaf Society), Helen Farrelly (Sign Language Interpreter with the new Communication Service), Ann Mearns, and Deidre Aitken (Caithness Deaf Care). 

Priority for the new service will be given to deaf people requiring a sign language interpreter to enable them full access to information when attending hospital, their GP, or a Highland Council appointment.

Ann Mearns, Highland Visible Voices, said: “I’m delighted that a formal sign language interpreting service for deaf people is being established for the Highlands. This is the first time that we will have a person specifically employed as a sign language interpreter and I am confident that the deaf community will make full use of this vital service.”

The establishment of the service coincides with the formal announcement from the Government that British Sign Language (BSL) is now recognised as a language in its own right.  The U.K. Council on Deafness has applauded the Government for making this statement and welcomes this as more than just a symbolic step towards equal rights for thousands of BSL users.

Sandy Riddell, Head of Operations with The Highland Council Social Work Service, said: “At a time when the Government has shown a clear commitment to improving access to BSL, the Council and NHS Highland remain determined through initiatives such as this, to provide more tangible and practical assistance to people for whom BSL is their first or preferred language.”

Moira Paton, Head of Community Planning and Development with Highland NHS Board, said: “The new service represents an important milestone in supporting deaf people to actively participate in everyday life.  It will remove some of the barriers that have prevented people from being informed and help them to access important health and local authority services.”