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UK emergency service ‘Call 999’ now available in BSL

999 BSL

For the first time, deaf people in the UK will be able to call ‘999’ – the emergency services number – via a BSL app on their mobile phones or online.The new service became available on Friday, June 17. 

This is not only an amazing breakthrough for the deaf community but also a win for the rest of society because, for the first time, those whose language is BSL (British Sign Language) will be able to respond to any emergency they encounter.

Using BSL to Communicate an Emergency

999 BSL app

photo: Sorenson Communications, Inc.

Using a regular phone service stops many deaf people from communicating with emergency services at times of urgent need, when it’s vital to get the message across quickly and clear. The new ‘999’ emergency service for. people who use BSL is a game-changer for those who are non-oral and communicate in sign language. 

Using the new app, people are able to quickly contact Police, Ambulance, Fire or Coastguard. All calls are free of charge and available 24-7, 365 days of the year.

Using the service couldn’t be any easier. The caller simply uses either the 999 BSL app or the website Once answered, a BSL interpreter takes the call and relays the message to ‘999’.

As with the standard ‘999’ services, users may receive a callback. If told to await such a call, simply keep the app open and active and remain close by. If using the website be sure not to close your browser window.

Read more: Accessible emergency services around the world 

Using the ‘999’ BSL app

999 BSL

photo: Sorenson Communications, Inc.

In order to use the ‘999’ service in BSL, callers will need an online connection to use the mobile phone app or website. The better the quality of your connection, the better the call quality. The app can be downloaded onto any suitable device such as Android or iOS, smartphone, tablet, laptop or netbook. The app can also be downloaded directly from the website

There is no need to register, as it is treated the same as any other ‘999’ emergency contact. Video calls are recorded, as legal requirement for all ‘999 calls by Ofcom (The Office of Communications). The videos and calls are kept for 3 years, in case they are needed as evidence.

If the app fails to work, callers are advised to go straight to the website and call from there directly. If both app and website fail to operate you should call using Text Relay UK Service.

This much-needed service shows that deaf language services are being treated the way mainstream communication has been for so long, which is a good win for the deaf community.

Author Details
Phonak hEARo, Phil is an actor, writer and journalist who writes in the deaf WellBeing and Lifestyle areas. He lives on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast with his wife Raine and their three children. Phil was diagnosed in 2016 and has moderate to severe Sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and constant tinnitus. He uses Phonak silver Nathos Auto M hearing aids. Member DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community)