Wales & West Utilities have launched a new service to help customers who are Deaf or hard of hearing to contact them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The gas emergency and pipeline service has partnered with SignLive to provide a free 24-hour online interpreting service for British Sign Language (BSL) users when calling the company.

SignLive will translate their British Sign Language discussion and relay this information to Wales & West Utilities engineers and customer service teams, which will help improve the accessibility of the company’s services for the BSL community.

The launch comes as the company celebrates Deaf Awareness Week (2-8 May). This week-long event focuses on Inclusion Deafness, exploring the entire theme of inclusion within communities. It also highlights the impact of hearing loss on everyday life, the importance of mental health in Deaf people, whilst increasing visibility and inclusion of underrepresented groups amongst the Deaf and raising pertinent issues of deafness being overlooked within education and the workplace.

Any customer wishing to use the service can download the SignLive app where they will see Wales & West Utilities in the list of partner organisations. They can also visit the ‘Contact us’ page on the Wales & West Utilities website and create a SignLive account.  A video conversation between a BSL interpreter and the customer will then take place, whilst the interpreter will contact Wales & West Utilities to relay the message.  The service also allows the company to call users back should they need more help or to follow up.

This service is part of Wales & West Utilities commitment to making sure its services are as accessible as possible for its 7.5 million customers.

Nigel Winnan, Customer & Social Obligations Strategy Manager at Wales & West Utilities, said:

We’re committed to supporting the most vulnerable people in society and providing a fully inclusive service to communities across Wales and south west England. SignLive will enable customers who use BSL to contact us in an easy, accessible way.

Our partnership with SignLive will help more customers reach us – no matter what the scenario. Whether a customer would like to connect to our gas network, make changes to their supply, or report the smell of gas, this service will allow Deaf and hard of hearing customers to feel more comfortable in contacting us 24/7.

Joel Kellhofer, CEO of SignLive, said:

One of Wales & West Utilities' goals is to deliver outstanding levels of customer service and we commend them for giving their Deaf customers the tools to receive the same quality of service as their hearing customers.

SignLive is an online interpreting service that allows deaf and hard of hearing people to connect with others through a phone or tablet for support via a British Sign Language live interpreter. The service can be accessed easily through a web browser or a dedicated app service. There are two main functions of SignLive: Video Relay Service (VRS) or Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). 

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If you smell gas, or suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, call us on 0800 111 999 straight away, and our engineers will be there to help any time of day or night. Before visiting, we'll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We'll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.