Types of Communication Professionals for Deaf People

British Sign Language/English interpreters

Who are they?

A British Sign Language (BSL)/English interpreter is a person who has been trained to a high standard in both BSL and English language, as well as interpreting and translation theory and practice. They have trained for many years to postgraduate level.

Sign Language is very different from English. It has its own grammar and is a complex and rich language. An interpreter listens (or watches!) and understands the message being given (in either English or BSL), and then produces an equivalent message in the other language. Working with the meaning, rather than individual words/signs.

The National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI) recommends only using the services of a regulated Trainee Sign Language Interpreter or Registered BSL/English Interpreter through one of the three regulatory bodies (NRCPD, RBSLI, SRLPDC). This gives both the deaf and hearing client/s reassurance that the interpreter has undertaken the required complex and advanced training, is DBS checked and has the appropriate personal indemnity insurance (PII) in place.

There are two categories of BSL/English interpreter, Registered Sign Language Interpreter (RSLI) and Trainee Sign Language Interpreter (TSLI). In England, the majority of interpreters are registered with the National Register of Communication Professionals for Deaf people (NRCPD). They hold these badges:

NRCPD Sign Language Interpreter badge

RSLI - this is an interpreter who has been deemed safe to practise and has obtained all the necessary qualifications to work independently.

NRCPD Sign Language Trainee Interpreter badge

TSLI - this is an interpreter who is on an approved training course and although they are able to undertake work in some areas, should not be used in certain domains.

Who might use them?

BSL/English interpreters are used by deaf people who use BSL as their first or preferred language, and by hearing people who are unable to communicate in BSL.

It is important to remember that the interpreter is there to communicate for both parties and is not only booked “for the deaf person”. The hearing person is just as reliant on the interpreter being present. This is why we use the term ‘BSL/English interpreter.

Please see NUSBLI's comprehensive Interpreter Awareness guide for more information.

Sign Language Translators:

Who are they?

A Registered Sign Language Translator (RSLT) is a Deaf Interpreter who translates from written text/English into BSL. Deaf Interpreters are native, first language BSL users. They are able to produce sign language in a way that is easily understood by Deaf BSL users.

NRCPD Sign Language Translator badge

Registered Sign Language Translators are regulated by NRCPD and RBSLI.

Who might use them?

Deaf BSL users whose first language is BSL who may watch the translated content on tv, websites or other forms of content.

Signalise Hand running left


Who are they?

A lipspeaker is a hearing person who has been professionally trained to be easy to lipread.

They will usually sit directly opposite the deaf, deafened or hard of hearing person, clearly repeating (silently) what the speaker is saying. The Lipspeaker will make sure that the speaker is being understood and will pass on the information in its entirety. They may use some fingerspelling to initialise difficult words or acronyms.

Some lipspeakers may also use basic signs to assist in communication (Lipspeakers with additional sign).

NRCPD Lipspeaker badge

Registered Lipspeakers are regulated by NRCPD, RBSLI and SRLPDC.

Who might use them?

Deaf or hard of hearing people who use English as their first and preferred language.

Speech-to-Text Reporters:

Who are they?

A Speech-to-Text reporter (STTR), is a person that has been trained to use a special keyboard to type verbatim (word for word), real time (live) text which appears on screen for users to read. They type phonetically (how the word sounds) and this is then converted into English and appears on a large screen or via a laptop.

NRCPD Speech To Text badge

Registered Speech-to-Text Reporters are regulated by NRCPD. There is also the Association of Verbatim Speech to Text Reporters.

Who might use them?

Deaf or hard of hearing people who are comfortable reading English and prefer to have access to this.

Electronic Notetakers:

Who are they?

Electronic Notetakers (ENT) are people that have been trained to summarise spoken English into electronic notes. They will record all the main points and are often used where a deaf person is also using a BSL/English interpreter or Lipspeaker. Deaf people are unable to write their own notes when using other communication support, as they will miss information if they were to look away.

NRCPD Electronic Notetaker badge

Electronic Notetakers are regulated by NRCPD and also supported by the Association of Notetaking Professionals.

Who might use them?

Deaf or hard of hearing people who need to access a record of the event in English.

Deafblind interpreters:

Who are they?

A Registered interpreter for Deafblind people are BSL/English interpreters who have been trained in additional skills to work with deaf blind people (people that are deaf and are also affected by a visual impairment). These include Deafblind Manual (where words are fingerspelled onto the hand), Hands on (where the deaf blind person places their hands on top of the interpreters to feel the movement to aid them to access BSL) or visual frame (where the interpreter works in a particular signing space to accommodate the area of vision the deafblind person has). Their work also includes guiding when necessary.

NRCPD Deafblind Interpreter badge

Deaflind interpreters are regulated by NRCPD and SRLPDC also have categories for Qualified and Trainee Guide Communicators and Deafblind Manual.

Who might use them?

Deafblind people who have a dual sensory loss.

Relay/Intralingual interpreters:

Who are they?

Relay (Intralingual) interpreters are Deaf professionals who are trained to work alongside British Sign Language/English Interpreter to ensure the Deaf person understands.

The hearing British Sign Language/English Interpreter will interpret the message between the hearing client and the Relay (Intralingual) interpreter. The Relay (Intralingual) interpreter will work using British Sign Language between the hearing British Sign Language/English Interpreter and the Deaf client, to support the Deaf client’s understanding of the message being communicated from the hearing client and to relay what the Deaf person is saying back to the hearing interpreter and finally the hearing client.

Who might use them?

Deaf people with specific or complex language needs. This may be a learning disability, mental health condition, or someone with limited language development.