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Eligibility & Services

This section outlines who is eligible for the services and the type of services available for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing.

 Note Board ‭[2]‬

Eligible individuals

Who is eligible for Interpreting, Intervenor and CART Services?

Interpreting and/or intervenor, or CART services are provided for patients and/or their designate i.e. family, friends or Power of Attorney (POA) who are:

  • Deaf
  • Deaf-Blind, or
  • Hard of Hearing

To receive the service, patients and designates must be residents of BC and enrolled with the Medical Services Plan (MSP). 

Eligible services include those under the following categories:

The Medical Services Plan (MSP) is the provincial health insurance program that covers health care benefits for BC residents. These include medically necessary services provided by physicians and midwives, dental and oral surgery performed in a hospital, eye examinations if medically required and some orthodontic services.  In addition, MSP pays for diagnostic services including x-rays.  

Other services that may be covered by MSP include supplementary benefits provided by other health care practitioners.  These include acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy and non-surgical podiatry. (Note: These services are not covered for everyone. Contact MSP service directly to learn more about your personal coverage).

MSP Supplementary Benefits provides partial payment for certain medical services obtained in BC and may access other income-based programs. If you qualify for one of the programs below, you may be eligible for MSP supplementary benefits and your interpreting needs will also be covered:

  • Income Assistance recipients
  • Convention refugees
  • Inmates of BC. Correctional Facilities
  • Individuals enrolled with MSP through the At Home Program
  • Residents of long-term care facilities receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)
  • Individuals enrolled with MSP as Mental Health Clients; and
  • First Nations individuals with valid BC. Medical Plan coverage through the First Nations Health Authority

The Hospital Insurance Act (HIA) is to be provided to a beneficiary pursuant to the Act in a general hospital for services recommended by the attending medical practitioner, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, midwife or nurse practitioner, as the case may be, and as are available in or through the hospital to which the person is admitted as an in-patient, provided that no beneficiary shall be entitled to receive, as an in-patient benefit, any treatment or diagnostic service not connected with an illness or condition which necessitates the person's being treated as an in-patient and which could normally be rendered to such person as an out-patient.


Access to sign language services has been expanded to include any service provided by a BC Health Authority.

Provincial Language Service is guided by the principle that a sign language interpreter is required for the following key communication intersects:

  • For key medical/treatment information;
  • When there is highly emotional content;
  • When legal consent is required; or
  • When there is stigmatized content.

For those other individuals who are not residents of BC

If a patient is not a resident of BC and is covered by another provincial medical plan in Canada, the patient can receive interpreting service for eligible health care appointments in BC.  

Patients from out of the country are not eligible for this service.

 Note Board ‭[1]‬


What type of services are there?

Sign language interpreters are specially trained professional interpreters who bridge the communication between English speakers and American Sign Language (ASL) users. Sign language interpreters are hearing and fluent in English and ASL. 

Interpreters are language conduits who convey the messages of people who do not share the same language, culture, or way of communicating. 


Deaf Interpreters (DI) are individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and possess communication skills in both American Sign Language and English. The DI has been trained in the role and ethics of an interpreter, and may also have specialized training and/or experience in the use of gestures, mime, props, drawings, home signs, and matching sentence structure and language development of the Deaf person for whom they are interpreting. A DI has extensive knowledge and understanding of Deafness, the Deaf community, and/or Deaf culture.


Intervenors act as patient navigators for Deaf-Blind patients. The role of intervenors is to assist the Deaf-Blind patient in getting to and from the medical appointment as well as navigating to and from procedures/appointments within the health care system (e.g. lab work, prescription pick-up, diagnostic imaging, etc.). An intervenor facilitates the interaction of the person who is Deaf-Blind with other people and the environment.

Intervenors are not interpreters. 


Remote Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) offers immediate, verbatim streaming of voice-to-text transcription during an appointment. 

Remote CART provides access to these medical appointments to Hard of Hearing patients.


Remote CART is available through

  • Virtual Health Visit - using Zoom for Healthcare closed caption features (add OVH CART Link).  
  • In-person Visit - Streaming transcript via the internet browser on Health Care Provider's tablet or laptop.

Sign Language or Deaf Interpreter service is not available if using Remote CART service. 

Services modality

In-Person, otherwise known as face-to-face or on-site interpreting, is when an interpreter or intervenor is scheduled to meet the Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing patient at any given location for a medical appointment. 

In-person interpreting is the preferred modality for most Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients and is the only workable modality for Deaf-Blind patients. 

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) uses audio and video technologies to provide sign language interpreting virtually. 

VRI is to be used as the primary modality in geographic locations where there is no or limited access to in-person interpreters and when the communication will be short in duration. For all other instances, VRI should be used as an interim solution until an in-person interpreter arrives onsite. 

Virtual Visit Interpreting (VVI) allows for sign language interpreters or Remote CART services to join Virtual Health Care appointments between a health care provider and a Deaf or Hard of Hearing patient.

Zoom for Healthcare platform is recommended for use for Deaf and Hard of Hearing patients. Visit the Zoom for Healthcare page to see if you are qualified to get access to the platform.

Schedule a VVI or Remote CART for a prescheduled or urgent virtual health visit. (Not suitable for Deaf-Blind patients).

Services benefits

  • 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 convey all parts of a message accurately without changing the content, meaning or tone thus reducing errors and enhancing patient safety.
  • Using a professional interpreter allows the patient to focus solely on understanding the illness and care plan and increases satisfaction with care.
  • It allows the family to support their loved ones through their care journey rather than act as language support.
  • The services assist 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.

Need to know

  • American Sign Language is not based on written or spoken English. The syntax and grammatical structure are very different from English, and English is often a second language for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing patients.
  • Machine translation (Google Translate) and other ad hoc language resources (paper and pen or family/friend) should only be used for non-medical conversations that do not require verification, do not increase the risk in case of miscommunication or breach of confidentiality, and when no other resources are available.

In 1997, to comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court of Canada ruling – Eldridge – made the provision of sign language interpreting mandatory to Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing patients in BC.  Eldridge arose from two separate actions both of which concerned patients who were born Deaf and whose preferred means of communication was 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 that there is a constitutional right to effective communication in health care settings. As a result, in BC, 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.

Since 2014, access to sign language interpreting has expanded beyond Medical Service Plan, Hospital Insurance Act. PLS Expended Services to include health care service provided by any BC Health Authority.



Who is eligible for Interpreting Services?

PLS and DWBP provide interpreting and intervenor services for patients and/or their designate (i.e. family, friends or Power of Attorney (POA)) who are:

  • Deaf
  • Deaf-Blind, or
  • Hard of Hearing

To receive the service, patients and designates must be residents of BC and enrolled with the Medical Services Plan (MSP).  

Services not covered
There are a number of areas where we are unable to provide sign language interpreters at the moment:

Community support services

  • Health fairs
  • Support groups (for example, a mindfulness session) 
  • Pre-natal classes (unless provided and covered by the physician/midwife or if organized by the Health Authority)

Medically-required services

Interpreting is not covered in the following areas:
  • services that are deemed to be not medically required,
  • Example: cosmetic surgery;
  • dental services, except as outlined under benefits;
  • routine eye examinations for persons 19 to 64 years of age;
  • acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy and non-surgical podiatry services (except for MSP beneficiaries receiving supplementary benefits);
  • medical examinations, certificates or tests required for:
  • driving a motor vehicle
  • employment
  • life insurance
  • school or university
  • recreational and sporting activities
  • immigration purposes

Private services

  • These are services patients are paying for directly and the service is not covered by MSP.
  • Psychiatry services (doctors and nurses) 
  • Psychologist services
  • Community care
  • Residential treatment programs
  • Private bed in long-term care
  • Naturopath
  • Private surgery

For information on how to book Sign language interpreters for services that are not covered by PLS and DWBP, please visit the government of B.C. website.

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