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Provincial Medical Sign Language Interpreting

Creating equitable access to health care for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing British Columbians.

Sign language interpreting, intervenor and CART services are available for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing patients when accessing most health care services in British Columbia.  

Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing individuals have a legal right to access sign language interpreters, intervenors and CART services at medical appointments following a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada ruled that sign language interpreting must be provided to Deaf patients in B.C. to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

These services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Eligible patients, family members and health care staff can request the service when needed. 

The obligation to ensure communication access rests with the health care organization and health care staff. The Provincial Language Service (PLS), as the program responsible for delivering these services, works to support health care organizations and staff to fulfil this obligation. 

PLS also provides staff consultation and education and community engagement and outreach with Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing communities.

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In 1997, as a result of a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge (Eldridge v British Columbia), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled equitable communication access for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing patients was required when they access health services in B.C.  


The Eldridge Decision arose from two separate actions, which concerned patients who were born Deaf and whose preferred means of communication were sign language. In both cases, the patients stated that the absence of sign language interpreters impaired their ability to communicate with their doctors and other health care providers and thus increased their risk of misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. Ultimately, their Charter right to equality, on the ground of disability under s.15 of the Charter, was violated by failing to provide such services.


The court found a constitutional right to effective communication in health care settings. As a result, in B.C., sign language interpreting services, where the following three factors are simultaneously present, are accessible at no cost to the patient:

Read more on the court cases here.


PLS expanded services to include health care services provided by any B.C. Health Authority. Since 2014, access to sign language interpreting has expanded beyond Medical Service Plan and Hospital Insurance Act. In 2021, CART services were included as a service offering.

Enquiry

For questions about Provincial Medical Sign Language Interpreting Service or get access to sign language interpreters, intervenors and CART in British Columbia.

Contact Provincial Language Service

Phone: 604-297-8400
Toll-free: 1-877-BC Talks (228-2557)
Fax: 604-708-2148
Email: PMSLIS@phsa.ca

About


Access Interpreter

Book an Interpreter 

Health Care Providers can access sign language interpreters in-person or virtually. Please discuss with your patient which mode of interpreting they prefer. 

Please choose your section to book an interpreter.


Advance Booking
Please submit interpreting service requests online.

If you don't have online access please call the office.

Urgent or After hours*  

Please call 604.297.8400 or 1.877.BC-TALKS (228.2557)

*After hours: 4:00 pm to 8:00 am, Saturday, Sunday and Statutory holidays.


Advance Booking
Please submit interpreting services requests online.

If you don't have online access please call the office.

Advance Booking, Urgent or After hours*  

Please call 604.297.8400 or 1.877.BC-TALKS (228.2557)

*After hours: 4:00 pm to 8:00 am, Saturday, Sunday and Statutory holidays.

Please submit interpreting service requests through Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility


Advance Booking

Voice: 604.736.7012 or 1.877.736.7012 
TTY: 604.736.7099 or 1.877.736.7099

Text: 778.995.7391


Urgent or After hours*  

Voice: 604.736.7039 or 1.877.736.7039

TTY: 604.736.7078 or 1.877.736.7078
Text: 778.990.7391

*After hours: 5:00 pm to 7:00 am, Saturday, Sunday and Statutory holidays.


Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)

VRI remains available at certain health authority sites and BC Emergency Health Services for sign language.


For Sign language interpreting, if you work in a clinical area where the VRI service is available, please use VRI only when waiting for the in-person sign language interpreter to arrive or when an in-person sign language interpreter is not available to attend. 


If you are making advance arrangements for a patient's appointment, please book an interpreter ahead of time using our online booking system or phone number, rather than relying on the VRI service.


VRI - BC Emergency Services

Clear communication is key in emergency situations, but it can also be a major barrier for those who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind or Hard of Hearing. Now, paramedics can connect these patients virtually with live American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters using a video remote interpreting app on their BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS)-issued iPhones. 

For more details, paramedics should connect with their team leads.

Feedback
We take concerns about your access to care seriously. If we have not met your expectations in providing interpreter or intervenor services, we would like to hear from you.

We also accept your compliments and we will be glad to share with the team and/or the interpreter.

We give high priority to quality assurance and your feedback is important to us. 


If you have a complaint, feedback and concerns about Interpreting or Intervenor Services contact
  plsqualityassurance@phsa.ca


We are committed to constant improvements in service delivery to all our customers.


Provincial Language Service adheres to strict policies and procedures on professional conduct. Any complaint or incident regarding an interpreter, health care agency, external customer or Provincial Language Service staff member is documented, investigated and tracked: Interpreter incident reporting process.

If you have a complaint about health care services provided for your own care or your loved one’s care contact our Patient Care Quality Office.

Complaints are best addressed and resolved at the time and place they occur.
 

If you are a health care provider a have a complaint or compliment about the service, contact PLS Quality Assurance at plsqualityassurance@phsa.ca.


We are committed to constant improvements in service delivery to all our customers.

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