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Sign for help – deaf paramedic urges people to download a new life-saving service

A deaf paramedic at London Ambulance Service is urging British Sign Languages (BSL) users to download a brand new app so they can make 999 calls by video.

The 999 BSL service means people with hearing or speech loss can be instantly connected to a video call with a BSL interpreter should they need life-saving help.

Paramedic Richard Webb-Stevens (who has been awarded the Queens Ambulance Medal for Distinguished Service) said: “This is such a brilliant innovation for the deaf community and means sign language users get the same access to emergency services as any other user.

London Ambulance Service paramedic Richard Webb-Stevens
Paramedic Richard Webb-Stevens

“If you haven’t already downloaded the 999 BSL app, please do it today – it could save your life or the life of a loved one.”

The revolutionary service is free to use and connects 999 callers to the BSL interpreter who will then relay the conversation to the 999 call handler for all emergency services: ambulance, police, fire or coastguard.

At London Ambulance Service (LAS), it means call handlers ask exactly the same questions they would in a voice call.

Previously, people with hearing or speech loss have had to rely on a text message service and meant call handlers were advised to ask fewer questions to avoid any delays in organising help for the patient.

The new service also allows LAS call handlers to give deaf callers instructions on how to give CPR – cardiopulmonary resuscitation – essential life-saving treatment for someone in cardiac arrest.

Richard has now made a video explaining how British Sign Language users can call 999 to encourage more people to familiarise themselves with the video translation service.

Early analysis of 999 BSL calls shows they are just as quick as a voice call – and take about half the time of the text system.

Sarah Clark, quality assurance manager at LAS, said: “I initially trained as a call handler and I’m passionate about helping patients and saving lives. This innovation means no deaf person is excluded. Everyone should have the same access to our services and treatment and care.

“Now deaf people get the same advice and the same instructions for helping patients. And the same chance for saving lives.”

Richard explains how to download and use the mobile app in the video below

For further information you can visit the website:

The existing text relays service will be retained for people who do not use sign language.


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