Roles that facilitate communication between deaf, deafblind and hearing people

11 September 2014

NRCPD regulates communication professionals who work with deaf and deafblind people. Our job is to safeguard the wellbeing and interests of people who rely on those professionals.

We do that by checking they are properly trained and setting standards of professional practice. We quality assure the training courses of a variety of providers to make sure they cover all the elements of the agreed professional standards. Registrants are required to abide by a Code of Conduct and continue their professional development.

We hold registers for

  • interpreters for deafblind people;
  • lipspeakers;
  • notetakers;
  • sign language interpreters;
  • sign language translators; and
  • speech to text reporters.

The difference between CSWs and other communication professionals

The other main role is 'communication support worker' (CSW). CSWs mainly work in education, but increasingly in the workplace.

CSWs use a variety of methods to meet the needs and preferences of deaf people. Some are indirect, such as modifying teaching materials. Others are direct, such as relaying the lesson and conversations between the deaf person and their hearing classmates.

CSWs receive training in a variety of communication methods. It includes elements of the skills mentioned above, other than speech to text reporter. They also learn about issues relevant to deaf people, their education and their lives.

Because CSWs receive some training in those skills, it is often thought they can be used in place of an interpreter, lipspeaker, notetaker or translator. However, whilst CSW knowledge is broad, someone who has a lipspeaking qualification, for example, has a greater depth of knowledge.

That is not to say a CSW won't also have other qualifications. For example, they may also be a qualified sign language interpreter.

But if a CSW does not have the required qualifications they cannot replace a interpreter, lipspeaker, notetaker or translator.

For example, someone may refer to a 'level 3 interpreter', which doesn't exist. The person in question will have a level 3 (A level standard) qualification in British Sign Language (BSL). They may be able to assist in conveying a basic conversation but will probably have no training in interpretation.

This means that, even when someone with a level 3 BSL qualification is able to accurately translate a spoken language into a signed one, much may be lost. The use of someone with a level 3 BSL qualification does not mean a deaf employee has been given opportunity or access on a par with their hearing colleagues.

Communication support worker

CSWs mainly work in education, in schools, colleges and universities. They help deaf learners access the curriculum and support them to communicate with their teachers and other learners. They work as part of the education team alongside other professionals, such as teachers of the deaf, speech and language therapists, and audiologists

Increasingly, CSWs are being used in the workplace. This is because some deaf people require a mixture and flexibility of support.

To become a CSW, the Association of Deaf Education Professionals and Trainees (adept) recommends someone has achieved

  • at least a level 3 qualification in BSL; and
  • a CSW qualification, which provides knowledge of lipspeaking, notetaking, interpreting and modifying written texts.

However, a CSW may not have even a level 3 qualification in BSL. Many advertised roles specify only a level 2 (GCSE standard) qualification and do not require a CSW qualification.

Interpreter for deafblind people

Interpreters for deafblind people use manual communication to enable deafblind people to understand, participate and interact. The interpreter also relays visual and other non-verbal information, for example reactions to what has been said, movement of other people and what they are doing.

To register with NRCPD as an interpreter for deafblind people, someone has to achieve the CACDP Level 3 Certificate for LSPs working with Deaf and Deafblind People (Deafblind Manual).


Lipspeakers repeat spoken messages for people who can lipread. They ensure clear communication in critical situations or when there is more than one voice to follow. Lipspeakers use facial expression, natural gesture and fingerspelling to support communication.

To register with NRCPD as a lipspeaker, someone has to achieve the CACDP Level 3 Certificate for LSPs working with Deaf and Deafblind People (Lipspeaking).


Notetakers produce an accurate summary record of speech which a deaf person can use for reference after the fact.

To register with NRCPD as a notetaker, someone has to achieve the CACDP Level 3 Certificate for LSPs working with Deaf and Deafblind People (Notetaking).

Sign language interpreter

Sign language interpreters transfer meaning from one spoken or signed language into another signed or spoken language. They use their skill and knowledge of the two languages, and their understanding of cultural differences, to transfer a message in one language into the other.

To register with NRCPD as a sign language interpreter, someone has to be highly skilled in a signed language like BSL and another language. It may be another signed language or a spoken language.

They must have postgraduate qualifications in both interpreting and the second language.

Sign language translator

Sign language translators translate written text from one language into another. Most often this will be written English into a signed language for the purposes of broadcasting or online distribution.

To register with NRCPD as a sign language translator, someone has to achieve the Durham University MA in Translation Studies or the Signature Level 6 Diploma in Sign Language Translation.

Speech to text reporter

Speech to text reporters use a phonetic keyboard to immediately show spoken words on a monitor or screen for real time communication. They provide a complete transcription of spoken words and include notes of environmental sounds, like laughter and applause.

To register with NRCPD as a speech to text reporter, someone has to achieve the CACDP Level 3 Certificate for LSPs working with Deaf and Deafblind People (Speech to Text Reporting) and pass the NRCPD professional competence assessment.

Check the register

Find and contact a communication professional