Deaf Action takes part in CivTech programme to develop SignPort app



presons hand holding mobile phone, on screen showing 'SignPort' app

Since July 2022, Deaf Action has been participating in the CivTech programme, and we are pleased to share with you our progress on a very exciting project.  

What is CivTech?

CivTech is a Scottish Government programme that brings people from the public, private and third sectors together to build things that make the world a better place.”

The CivTech programme is designed to support innovation, bringing people together to solve wide ranging social challenges. Every six months, a new set of challenges is issued, and anyone with an idea on how they might solve those challenges is invited to submit their proposal.

Our CivTech journey

In June 2022, CivTech announced Challenge 7.5:

How might technology help match British Sign Language (BSL) users and their required interpreters more easily and equitably?

This challenge was sponsored by the Scottish Government Equalities Unit. You can learn more about the details of the challenge here. We had lots of ideas about how to respond to this challenge, and so we submitted our proposal at the end of July. We were then shortlisted as one of three organisations who were invited to spend four weeks refining our idea. After presenting our revised proposal in September 2022, we were confirmed as the successful challenge team, and entered onto a 15 week ‘accelerator’ programme. The goal for the accelerator phase was to build a ‘minimum viable prototype’ (or MVP) to demonstrate what our solution would look like.

At this time, we entered into a delivery partnership with our fellow finalists Burrotech, combining our subject matter expertise with their expertise in web and mobile app development.

Over the 15 weeks, we embarked on a round of preliminary consultations with stakeholders. We held consultation meetings with the following people, and we wish to extend our thanks for their contribution in helping to shape our approach:

Name Representing Date of consultation
Shaurna Dickson SCOSLI 29 November 2022
Mags Greig SRLPDC 14 December 2022
Mark Ballard and Andy McMahon NDCS 15 December 2022
Tori Raw NRCPD 15 December 2022
Andy Carmichael ASLI 16 December 2022
Jacqui Beckford and Audrey Simmons Interpreters of Colour Network 19 December 2022
Sabine Zielinska NUBSLI 19 December 2022
Jason Bell RBSLI 21 December 2022
Ruth Hart Deafblind Scotland 12 January 2023
Graham Turner BDA 14 February 2023

On 8 February 2023, we presented our preliminary prototype at the CivTech demo day, along with our partners Burrotech. You can view our presentation here. The demo day was one of the final stages to secure the investment required to take our solution from a simple prototype to a product that is ready for launch to the market. We are delighted to confirm that this investment has now been secured, and so we now move on to the next phase.


As we outlined in our presentation, our solution has two parts:

  • A mobile app allowing BSL users to book BSL/English interpreters with speed, ease and equity – putting the control in their hands; and
  • A web-based app, intended for use by third party agencies (like the NHS) making bookings on behalf of BSL users. By integrating with the mobile app, we hope to shift the onus for making access arrangements away from the BSL user, without excluding them from the process or denying them choice.

The app will be free to use for deaf people. The core features will also be free to use for interpreters, with optional add-ons for a small monthly subscription, such as integration with bookkeeping software.

SignPort will operate as a social enterprise. All surplus revenue will be invested in attracting and nurturing new entrants to the interpreting profession, including deaf interpreters, and supporting existing interpreters to further develop. This will help address the underlying problem of a national shortage of interpreters.

What happens next

Whilst we have achieved a lot in only six months, there is still a great deal of work to do to progress this project. We are committed to deeper and more detailed engagement with all stakeholders. To that end we will be attending consultation events with the following organisations:

  • SCOSLI & SRLPDC – Wednesday 12 April at 6.30pm
  • ASLI – Wednesday 19 April at 7pm
  • NUBSLI – Monday 24 April at 6.30pm

We will extend similar offers to all stakeholders so that we can gather as much insight as possible. Our expectation is that within six months we will be in a position to deploy a beta version of the product to deaf BSL users and interpreters for testing purposes. This will allow us to capture more meaningful feedback to support product refinement.

We warmly welcome enquiries from anyone who would like to know more, or who has ideas about features they would like to see included in the app. You can register to join our mailing list here.