18 Mar 2024

Nationwide Launches British Sign Language Service As It Increases Access to Financial Services for Deaf People

  • Website translation service comes as Sign Language Week begins in the UK
  • Enhances support Nationwide offers Deaf customers in branch and contact centres
  • Just 6% of financial services firms1 offer websites in British Sign Language (BSL)
  • Deaf charities call for greater awareness of BSL as a recognised UK language
  • BSL is the primary language of 87,000 of UK’s Deaf population

Scan QR code or visit https://Signly.co/news to read this press release in BSL2.

As Sign Language Week launches this week, Nationwide has rolled out a new digital service for Deaf customers by providing its website in British Sign Language (BSL).

Nationwide becomes the first building society to offer the service by partnering with leading BSL technology company, Signly – ensuring Deaf customers can access services in their primary language and improve access to financial services.

BSL content is in the form of pre-recorded signed videos, with the most popular web pages available first. Content will grow over time and users can select any new pages to be translated. Innovative technology continually monitors website content to ensure that translations stay true to the text. For the first use, customers need to opt-in via Nationwide’s accessibility webpage.

Nationwide’s launch comes as national charity British Deaf Association (BDA) is ramping up calls for greater acknowledgement of the needs of Deaf people. They estimate that BSL is the first language of over 87,000 Deaf people in the UK, meaning that written English is inaccessible for many.3

With money impacting all aspects of life, providing accessible banking solutions is crucial for ensuring that people maintain financial independence wherever possible. A recent report1 by self-regulatory banking body, the Lending Standards Board (LSB), found that whilst 65 per cent of their registered banking firms offered BSL services in-branch, and 59 per cent offered remote BSL access via video, only six per cent provided on-demand access to website content.

The launch of the service builds on the existing range of accessibility services offered by Nationwide, including SignVideo BSL into contact centres and in-branch BSL interpretation. Nationwide recently announced its participation in the Experian Support Hub scheme, which lets customers record their support needs digitally and share them with multiple companies more easily. As part of this service, there are a range of options for people who are Deaf or have hearing loss, which aim to improve the experience when contacting Nationwide.

 Kathryn Townsend, Head of Customer Accessibility at Nationwide said: “British Sign Language is a rich, visual language. The recent BSL Act introduction which legally recognises it as language of England, Scotland and Wales, and the upcoming launch of the BSL GCSE show progress, but there remain barriers. We recognise that for BSL users, accessible communication formats are not always available, so we are proud to launch this new service as part of our commitment to the Deaf community, to improve access to vital financial information. Crucially, we work with Deaf charities and people with lived experiences to help inform what we do.”

Reg Cobb, CEO of charity deafPLUS, said: “At deafPLUS, deaf people, including those who use BSL as their first language is at the heart of what we do and we are proud that 97 per cent of our staff are deaf, including myself. Our mission is to provide information, advice, and guidance so that deaf people can make informed decisions, including with financial matters. In the UK, we’re seen as worldclass in how we provide access to deaf people and yet, we’re still so far behind in terms of equitable access to all facilities, goods and services. Unfortunately, we still hear too many stories of how deaf people are left feeling frustrated, failing to access their own finances.

“We’re pleased to work with Nationwide, as one of the leading financial services providers, to pave the way for better access to information for deaf people and are thrilled to see them launch on-demand access to website content in BSL. It’s vital that corporate organisations, such as Nationwide, are working together towards a world with equal access for deaf people, so they don’t have to rely on support from deaf organisations.”

- Ends -

Notes to editors

(1) This research is from Lending Standards Board 2023 report Access-for-dDeaf-customers-in-banking-and-credit.pdf (lendingstandardsboard.org.uk)

(2) In any reporting, Editors are asked to include signposting to the QR code (above) and/or the following URL https://signly.co/news, which links to the press release in BSL. This is to ensure equality of access for the Deaf community.

(3) What is BSL - Sign Language Week

About Signly

The Signly service is free and easy to use, with website users completing a one-time opt-in via the Nationwide website to be presented with a pop-up video of the content in BSL, alongside the corresponding text.

About deafPLUS

deafPLUS is a charity that works to improve the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK by offering deaf friendly advice where needed.

They provide a range of services to ensure that deaf and hard of hearing people have access to the support and resources they need to live a full and independent life; being part of a wider society.