New site sparks hope for cheaper interpreters


newslatestA new online marketplace should reduce the time it takes for Deaf people to find a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, and help avoid the huge fees charged by some of the big translation agencies.

The new Lingoing website allows potential clients to contact registered interpreters through an interactive online platform that is “transparent” and “very easy to use”.

Both clients and interpreters can join the site for free, and the company charges a standard fee of 20 per cent, compared with a mark-up of 60 to 120 per cent by some of the big translation agencies.

There are hopes that the new venture will eventually help to cut the cost of employing freelance interpreters, with Mike Penning, the Conservative disabled people’s minister, having raised concerns about “disproportionately” large sums of money being spent on funding BSL support through the Access to Work scheme.

Lingoing also hopes that it will guarantee fair rates of pay to interpreters.

Sadaqat Ali, Lingoing’s chief executive, hopes his company will make it easier for other Deaf people to secure the interpreters they need.

He said: “At the moment, agencies are over-charging and providing under-qualified interpreters. The end-users are receiving a poor quality service.

“We are trying to create a more transparent method of working within this industry.”

He was inspired to set up Lingoing after visiting a Deaf friend in hospital who had been unable to communicate properly with medical staff, and had been told he would have to wait three days for an interpreter.

As soon as Ali arrived he was able to communicate with the doctors, and they realised that his friend’s kidneys were failing. The failure to provide an interpreter could have killed him, said Ali.

The issue was raised only last week by the British Deaf Association – in a report to be submitted to the UN – which warned that interpreters were “neither routinely provided for hospital admissions nor for primary and secondary care appointments”.

Ali said: “There are so many [interpreting]services out there, so why is this a problem? It is happening on a regular basis to Deaf people.”

Ali was speaking at an event in London organised by the telecommunications giant Telefonica – O2’s parent company, which is supporting the Lingoing venture – to examine how the digital industry can make technology accessible to disabled people.

Lingoing is also developing a mobile phone app that would allow a Deaf person to connect almost instantly with an interpreter, which could help in situations involving the emergency services.

28 May 2014