In British Columbia, sign language interpreter and intervenor services for health care are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Patients, family members and healthcare providers can request a sign language interpreter and/or intervenor when needed in a healthcare setting.
The Provincial Language Service (PLS) is responsible for the delivery of sign language interpreting and intervenor services in health care. PLS also provides cross-cultural consultation for patients and staff as well as community engagement and outreach with Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing communities.
Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing people have a legal right to interpreters and intervenors at medical appointments, and arranging the interpreter is the responsibility of the health care provider. Patients and family members are not able to book through PLS.
Sign language services are provided through the Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility, which operates Medical Interpretation Services (MIS).
MIS provides sign language interpreters and intervenors services for the Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing patients at no direct cost to clients or health care providers for services that fall under the Medicare Act and the Hospital Insurance Act.
This service is provided following a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that sign language interpretation must be provided to Deaf patients in BC to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- A qualified interpreter optimizes the delivery of safe and equitable health care for patients with various cultural and language needs.
- Professional interpreters are trained to accurately convey all parts of a message without changing the content, meaning or tone, reducing errors and enhancing safety.
- Using a professional interpreter also allows the patient or family member to focus solely on understanding their illness or to support a loved one to increase satisfaction with care.
- The service assists in creating equitable access to medical appointments for deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing patients, allowing greater access to communication with health care providers.