An Open Letter To Steve Powell, The CEO Of SignHealth

Dear Mr Powell, 

We are writing to you as an open letter from The Tree House group on Facebook and blog (, we are disappointed to find that there is lack of subtitles on videos that SignHealth have produced.

We would like to remind you that The Tree House Group represents some of the 10 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK and we promote diversity, which means we welcome people of all backgrounds including all communication techniques they use. No one is inferior or superior to one another as we are all in the same situation.

We want to make a few points regarding your lack of subtitles on your videos

• There are approximately 10 million deaf and hard of hearing people – 1 in 6 people in the United Kingdom whereas there are approximately 17000 BSL dependent users.

• We believe that subtitling the videos will enable SignHealth to reach out more people who may be deaf oral, use signed supported English, hands on signing for deafblind. Reaching out to the deaf/deafened/hard of hearing people will make your cause stronger than ever because you have more people supporting the cause.

• We know for a fact that deaf people with various communication mechanisms do have problems with healthcare,

o Not enough time to familiarise with a doctor

o Inability to lipread doctors with accent

o Wrong assumptions about lipreading and mistaking that we actually understood everything.

o Inability to book communication support in urgent appointments

o Lipspeakers in short supply

o Having to use family, friends for communication support and many more to list.

• We want to be part of and support SignHealth, because of the problems we all have encountered in the NHS, but not having the subtitles in BSL videos makes it exclusive. It makes us feel that we are being discriminated for using other forms of communication not BSL.

• We would like to ask what are SignHealth’s aims? Are you focusing on the deaf people as whole or deaf people who rely on BSL?

We hope SignHealth would consider our request for subtitles on your videos to be taken into consideration, because we strongly believe that you will reach out to more deaf people who require your help. There are softwares that subtitles can be created on videos, as most of us have managed to do it when we make videos for The Treehouse group. If you wish to know more, please contact the admins of Treehouse Group.

We look forward to hearing your response on this issue within 7 days.

Yours Faithfully

The Tree House team;

Sara Jae,

Sebastiaan Eldritch-Böersen,

Andrew Arthur,

Daniel McManus,

Paul Leonard,

Michelle Hedley,

Kimberley Lucas,

Claire Leiper,

Jamie Danjoux

In addition, members of the public.



18 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Steve Powell, The CEO Of SignHealth

  1. I have Menieres and rely on subtitles, speech to text, Lipreading, and what I can achieve from my hearing aid

  2. I rely on lip-reading, and use speech to text/note-taking or palentype,text is a vital access medium to me, they ar also very difficult to obtain because health areas are not ;promoting awareness of ALL deaf people, this then forces us to have to approach health Public Info areas 2 or 3 times over for access in their format, it is so easy to include captions/narratives etc as a norm, why don’t signhealth do that ? Far too many Health videos are exclusive to the smallest sector of deaf people leaving most of us out, I support this letter too. NO BSL videos without captions,this is NOT deaf awareness. Not even deaf access.

  3. I have need for access this is fit for my needs…and I would be grateful if SIGN HEALTH.. starts to make their information on website, training and the provision of mental health services to be fully inclusive. I am profoundly deaf, uses speech, sign language and speech to text. To revisit their branding. SICK OF IT is also within.

  4. Althea Rowland – I rely on hearing aids and lip reading. I would also like to see ALL people with any amount of hearing loss included in the SICK OF IT campaign.

  5. I live in a very rural area. Unlike London & other parts of the country, in my area deaf people are spread around and quite isolated. BSL is what a lot of deaf people in my area use. However, because some have no formal training and no deaf family or social contact to support their language development in BSL, language levels vary hugely, even amongst those who don’t use English. Some operate on mainly colloquial, family or regional signs, especially young people who are mainstreamed, often in small village schools with no other deaf people and inadequate support. These young people need to be as independent as possible and should have the same access to health education and information as their hearing peers. Often though they are unable to fully understand the fluent BSL which they see on videos, everywhere, not just Signhealth. Whilst I understand Signhealths position in giving BSL access, it really isn’t black and white. Some people are in a grey area, through no fault of their own. If Signhealth subtitled their videos it would give better access opportunities to those who don’t fully understand Fluent English or fluent BSL through clarification. It could also help develop their BSL language skills.

  6. Yes this properly identifies not all deaf who sign follow BSL output too. Like any other area, deaf or hearing, academic/language attainment skill varies considerably, you can get one excellent BSL user and the next one only following 30% of what is signed due to education and also regional differences in sign too. Literacy is all, hence why the demand for captioning is SO important, it shouldn’t ever be a choice, but a norm. BSL people say the sign assists the English but suggest it doesn’t work the other way, I don’t believe that view is based in fact. The grammatical arguments are defeating the means used to educate deaf people.

  7. Just so you all know, Sign Health have been in contact and we have asked them for a public response so that all our members can see. Once we know more, we will update you.

    Paul Leonard (Admin)

  8. I couldn’t agree more, the more ways of communicating for ALL the better. Different folk learn in different ways, what works for one doesn’t for another, also different situations may need different methods. Anything that helps the brain to develop and support communicating methods is to be applauded, we never know what life will throw at us!

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