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Deaf And Interpreter Social Enterprise Lingoing Aims To Make Every Voice Heard

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Below is our recent interview with Elizabeth Hood, Director of Operations at Lingoing:

Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Lingoing?

A: Lingoing Ltd, Company No, 07553278 was formed on 7 March 2011 and is a Deaf and interpreter led social enterprise. Accessibility is at the core of all that we do, with over 60% of our employees being Deaf we have a strong understanding of the multi lingual abilities and challenges our customers face, thus helping us to know exactly what is needed on the ground.

We offer an array of services, whether it be face to face or Video Relay Interpreting, by providing highly trained and fully registered interpreters to ensure Deaf people have equal access to their hearing peers and vice versa. The service is available in settings such as the workplace, educational institutes, or normal day to day appointments. We currently have 250 interpreters registered with us and are continuously attracting more.

We have, and continue to provide solutions that truly work, further to this we endeavour to reinvest profits back into the provision of such vital services and, as a result, have created a living network where deaf people and interpreters can find each other effortlessly. Consequently, our sign language interpreters have the best customers, and our clients get the best sign language interpreters!

Our ever evolving online platform – enables clients to submit
details of the language support they need and 98% of the time we can cover jobs posted for Face to Face Bookings within 48 hours.

Q: Tell us about the early days of Lingoing. What were the biggest challenges?

A: The challenges we faced when launching Lingoing were around the identification of the exact problem in the market place. There are several disgruntled voices in the space, from an industry trying to maintain standards and CPD, to budget holders being squeezed by ongoing austerity measures, tot he deaf people pushed in the middle of the battle and in need of constant and reliable communication.

We initially started with a market place where rated vetted professionals could be sought to manage communication needs. We built this out further to help with paperwork management to develop a seamless experience. Although much loved, the system couldn’t scale to the level we wanted primarily because of existing working relationships and apprehension to change. That said the platform is still much loved, and continues to slowly grow as users enjoy this approach to managing their interpreters.

However from this and continuous dialogue with the deaf community and our team members (we have a mix of deaf and hearing professionals in our team giving us a great space to hypothesis and test), we believed that if the communication was of the right standard, with flexibility and a more holistic approach toward supporting the needs of the deaf person, would be a better way to move forward. InSignLanguage was born, a video app where you can connect to an interpreter at a click of a button.

It has driven the development of great working relationships with several businesses such as Uber, where we support deaf people to become self-employed drivers. They can uses the app for communication but the holistic part, which is what our business is about is community, we run regular meet ups allowing a sharing of new challenges, growth, targets, concerns and keeping tax compliant. This has been very powerful for our community, given us a very low churn rate and the app I growing from strength to strength. We love our community and its a privilege to make this all happen and create positive change.

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Q: You’re getting more deaf drivers on the road alongside Uber London; could you tell us something more?

A: Since June 2016, we have been supporting deaf drivers throughout England to become Uber Partners, and in July 2017 we signed a promotional contract with Uber to further enable this. Currently, we have 45 Uber Partners, a number that is steadily increasing.

The support we offer embraces the application process and the daily running of their Uber business and includes:
• assistance with the Public Carriage Office (PCO) process
• help with Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check,
• the medical checks,
• topographical training, (via a Deaf tutor)
• on board training etc. (using Face to face or VRS interpreting services)
• Hiring or buying a vehicle (using Face to face or VRS interpreting services)
• Insurance (using Face to face or VRS interpreting services)
• Keeping records and all required business matters (using Face to face or VRS interpreting services)
• Tax returns Deaf drivers (using Face to face interpreting services)
• Communication with Uber (using VRS)
• Communication with Uber Riders (using VRS)

The success of this partnership and the feedback that has been taken on board from our regular Uber Forums has drastically improved the confidence of a number of Deaf drivers, it has given them the opportunity to improve their lives and take control of their futures. Further more it has raised Deaf awareness across the board, in both staff members at Uber, as well as those utilising the services. A video of one of our Deaf drivers even went viral recently on social media, this again helps to raise awareness and break the barriers and misconceptions of Deaf drivers.

Q: What exactly is visual culture?

A: “deaf people often identify themselves as either deaf with an inability to hear, or Deaf as in those who are culturally immersed in the community, language, etc. thus no longer see themselves as defined by their “disability”. Visual culture is the core of this concept and is essentially a community united by shared experience…”
Dr.Saduf Naqvi COO Lingoing.

Many academic fields study this subject, including cultural studies, art history, critical theory, philosophy, media studies and anthropology. They explain it as “the aspect of culture expressed in visual images”

In his book, Mirzoeff proposes that visual culture does not depend on pictures but rather the modern tendency to picture or visualize existence. This idea can be observed when Deaf people from different countries, who use different sign language, meet and are able to communicate with ease after a short period of time by using this “visual culture” to establish conversation, a truly fascinating experience to watch.

Q: Why is it important to integrate sign language into everyday life?

A: Our motto at Lingoing is ‘to make every voice heard’ which applies to both professional and everyday life. Accessibility is at the heart of what we do and we believe it is of the utmost importance to integrate sign language into everyday life.

Having awareness of Deafness, and even knowing a few basic signs, can make an enormous difference to any Deaf people that one could meet. Being conscious of, and putting into practice this kind of basic knowledge, and awareness, removes barriers and increases understanding of one another which makes for a more positive experience for all. Sign language is a visual language and the basics can be simple to pick up and doesn’t only benefit Deaf people, but enables conversation between anyone to take place across the room, through a window, or in a noisy environment.

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Q: Future Plans – Lingoing Ltd

A: We would like to continue to invest in the product development of the existing platform as we have identified areas that will improve user experience and ensure that we offer more than our competitors.

In addition to Lingoing we run a sister company called InSignLanguage Ltd.
InSignLanguage Ltd, (Company No, 10943637), ISL, was formed on 4 September 2017 and has three streams of use; VRI (Video Relay Interpreting) – which is run via the ISL app, Employment recruitment support, and BSL lesson webinars.

The ISL app is up and functioning and is currently available 12 hours a day (7:00 to 19:00) 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Our service is based and operates in the U.K. and our interpreters work between spoken English and British Sign Language. Our future plans for the app are to continue development, in order to ensure; that our customers are receiving a seamless experience in communication, and that the time keeping and integration into the accounting software is accurate. Secondly we aim to roll the service out to 24 hours per day meaning it can be accessed anywhere in the world regardless of time differences.

The recruitment service is already operational and has began placing Deaf employees into work.

The third stream of the company, BSL lesson webinars, is in its final testing stage and due to go live shortly.

In an ideal world, we would like to use profits of the company to offer a free drop in service one afternoon a week for deaf people who are not currently employed, to provide access to information that will empower them to take control of their lives.

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