‘Help is on the way’: (In)accessible policing in the UK through sign language interpreting

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In the UK, police reforms to meet needs of a diverse society have been limited in the case of deaf signers to an increase in sign language interpreting services (SLIS). This article explores the consequences of this dependence on SLIS by the UK police. We consider how deaf signers’ contact with the police may be inaccessible, despite national frameworks that ‘guarantee’ accessibility through the provision of BSL-English interpreting. We draw on qualitative data from focus groups and interviews with police officers and custody sergeants who describe their experiences of having contact with deaf signers (or other minority language users) through interpreters. We examine and contrast their perceptions and experiences concerning if, when, and how SLIS provided access, as well as its impact on their contact with deaf signers. We compare these findings with UK police reform policies to identify the current state of these provisions along with potential divergences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-477
Number of pages23
JournalTranslation and Interpreting Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2023


  • accommodations
  • criminal justice
  • deaf
  • interpreter
  • language access
  • police

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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