The social construction of 101 non-emergency video relay services for deaf signers

Publication Date01 June 2021
AuthorNicholas R Fyfe,Jemina Napier,Robert A Skinner
Date01 June 2021
The social construction of 101 non-emergency
video relay services for deaf signers
Robert A Skinner
Heriot-Watt University, UK
Jemina Napier
Heriot-Watt University, UK
Nicholas R Fyfe
University of Dundee, UK
How the police prepare for and engage with a citizen who is deaf and uses British Sign Language (BSL) is a national
problem. From the perspective of deaf sign language users, the police remain largely inaccessible and unprepared in how to
accommodate their linguistic needs. Four regional forces have responded to this issue by introducing a local solution, a
bespoke 101 non-emergency video relay service (101VRS). Independent VRS companies function as the auxiliary service,
mediating video calls to a 101 helpline. This service was identified as a simple solution that relied on minimal resourcing
and input from the police. In using Pinch and Bijker’s social construction of technology (SCOT) framework, we look at
competing interpretations of the 101VRS concept and how this has led to a range of intended and unintended solutions
and problems (Pinch TJ and Bijker WE (1984) The social construction of facts and artefacts: or how the sociology of
science and the sociology of technology might benefit each other. Social Studies of Science 14(3): 399–441). To maintain the
investment in improving access to the police, we recommend harmonization of 101VRS nationally, and ongoing
consultation with how front-line services can become better prepared at assisting deaf citizens.
Video relay services, policing diverse communities, non-emergency, calls, sign language, interpreting studies, social
construction of technology
Submitted 10 Feb 2020, Revise received 25 Sep 2020, accepted 26 Oct 2020
How the police assist or deal with a deaf sign language user
is a national issue, especi ally for unplanned encounte rs.
Without proper provisions, deaf people remain vulnerable
to predatory behaviours, such as hate crime and domestic
abuse (British Deaf Association, 2015). This preliminary
study examines four UK police forces who introduced a
local solution to reform how deaf people access front-line
services. These forces contracted an independent video
relay service (VRS) to function as an auxiliary service,
fielding 101 non-emergency video calls (101VRS) from
deaf people onto a force control room (FCR). These VRS
platforms have been presented as an opportunity to shift the
burden for ensuring the police are accessible away from
deaf individuals to the public service.
Corresponding author:
Robert A Skinner,Heriot Watt University, Campus the Avenue,Edinburgh
EH14 4AS, UK.
International Journalof
Police Science & Management
2021, Vol. 23(2) 145–156
ªThe Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1461355720974703

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