Nearly all of us know what a sign language interpreter is, but how many of us have ever tried using a lipspeaker? We spoke to Lesley Weatherson from Lipspeaker UK (who also support this site!) to find out what kind of support a lipspeaker can offer. Lesley won a Signature Regional Award for her work last year.
How did you get involved with lipspeaking?
Having worked as a nurse and midwife for many years, I became increasingly frustrated at my inability to communicate with deaf ladies that came into hospital. Establishing a rapport with a woman in labour, for example, is crucial. Had I been able to communicate effectively, each deaf woman’s experience could have been far better and more memorable.
I decided to go and learn to sign. It never occurred to me that not every deaf person used sign language! I soon passed my Deaf Awareness course, Stage 1 and 2 British Sign Language courses and a notetaking course. The next obvious course to undertake was a lipspeaking course. I had no idea what it would involve but a deaf lady told me I would be good at it – so I did.
Lesley (on the left) lipspeaking at the Houses of Parliament.
What is lipspeaking?
A lipspeaker is a hearing person who has been professionally trained to be easy to lipread.
Lipspeakers reproduce clearly the shapes of the words and the natural rhythm and stress used by the speaker. They also use facial expression, gesture and finger spelling, to aid the lipreader’s understanding. We ‘pare down fast speech to a lipreadable pace without changing the meaning and make speech look and ‘feel’ interesting – providing the speaker is of course!
Some of us have additional sign language skills. I am about to collect my BSL Level 6 evidence, so often, I provide lipspeaking with sign support. This seems to be requested now more than before.
What kind of people do you work with?
We work with Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people. Anyone who uses English grammar rather than British Sign Language can often benefit from using a lipspeaker.
How much does it typically cost?
Fees for lipspeakers vary greatly depending on the location of the venue and the travel time for the Lipspeaker. There are only around 40 working, registered lipspeakers in the UK so demand and supply can often affect price.
At Lipspeaker UK, we try and save travel time and costs to the client by acting as a hub, making sure that where possible, we find a lipspeaker near to where the job takes place.
Fees vary between £100-£150 per half day and £200-£250 for a full day. Often, the job will only be for an hour or two but the travel could be three or four hours in each direction, hence the enhanced half day fee.
How can people book?
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