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British Sign Language Communication Support Assistant


The Role Of A British Sign Language Communication Support Assistant

A British Sign Language Communication Support Assistant (CSA) enables access to communication, using a variety of support strategies and communication modes to match individuals’ needs and preferences. CSA's liaise with other professionals such as: Teachers of the Deaf, audiologists, teachers, lecturers, other CSA's and team leaders. This support generally involves a two-way exchange of information, through BSL, written notes or clear speech, and provides access to information and opportunities within the educational institution. Many learners require more than one form of support at the same time and therefore may need the services of more than one professional within the same session. The CSA facilitates access to the curriculum and the wider learning environment in schools, universities, colleges of further education, adult education centres and other learning environments, and meets the needs of the individual deaf learner wherever possible.


It is essential to promote the employment of appropriately experienced and qualified CSA's, ideally to work as part of a team and not as the sole ‘specialist’. It is good practice to match the needs of the deaf learner with the skills and experience of an individual CSA within certain topics of education. For example, catering, health and social care, English.


The Role Of The CSA is:

1. To enable equality of access to information and education, to meet the needs of learners.

2. To empower the learner by the CSA’s use of a range of appropriate strategies of support, encouraging the development of the individual learner within educational, social, linguistic and cultural contexts.

3. To consider the needs of the learner within the context of their peer group, and to provide appropriate communication strategies, from a range of skills, helping to facilitate successful integration of the group.

4. To provide access to a range of learning materials using appropriate communication methods to match the needs of the individual learner.

5. To respond to all communication requirements that may arise in the learning environment and with Assistive Technologies, and to implement, review and adapt strategies as necessary.

6. To enable and empower learners to discuss their own learning requirements with teaching staff and other professionals.

7. To provide Deaf Awareness training, advice and guidance for teaching staff and/or peer group and to involve the learners whenever possible. Provide training to front of house staff also.


Key Areas Of Work

1. Familiarise oneself with an individual learner’s needs


2. Prepare for support sessions and subject areas as appropriate


3. Develop and use a range of communication strategies, for example working between BSL/SSE/SEE/English, lipspeaking, notetaking and/or language modification. Also methods of communication used with deafblind learners, such as the Manual Alphabet, Block, Moon, etc.


4. Adapt the physical environment and using a range of resources, for example ensuring the lighting is correct and the learner has access to communication and visual materials.


5. Empower learners


6. Reflect on and evaluate one’s own performancea and implement targets to develop skills and abilities


7. Work with a range of professionals


8. Meet professional requirements


 The Code of Practice

1. Hold qualifications in educational and appropriate vocational and communication skills.

2. Be registered or listed where registers of appropriate vocational and communication skills are available.

3. Seek informed feedback from others, e.g. line managers, peers, on performance. Also feedback from learners during their Individual Learning Plans and Reviews.

4. Strive to develop and constantly update professional skills in order to provide the highest level of support for deaf learners.  

5. Keep up to date with legislation, initiatives, ICT and any changes or developments within the profession.

6. Be aware of fundamental changes within the educational sector, which may impact on the learning and support environment, e.g. changes to funding.

7. Be aware of the basic principles of teaching and learning and individual learning styles and how these may affect performance.

8. Be aware of the diversity of deaf educational settings, i.e. oral, bilingual, BSL etc. and the range of experiences/backgrounds of different deaf learners


Confidentiality and neutrality: CSA's should:

1. Respect confidentiality. All personal information about a learner to which a CSA has access should be treated as confidential. Information about a learner's needs, progress and assessment can be shared within the support team to aid continuity of support. However, the CSA should be aware of the implications of the Data Protection Act and computer security.


2. Remain impartial and neutral when providing communication support.


3. Remain objective and respect individual learners’ identity regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexuality and age.


4 .Be aware of the legal implications of professional practice.


5. Be aware of Health and Safety issues.


Equal opportunities: CSAs should:

1. Promote equality of access to education, training and employment opportunities for Deaf and and Deafblind people, and promote positive attitudes.

2. Recognise and respect the individual support needs of learners. The CSA should not advocate one method of communication in preference to another, but should seek to meet the needs of all.


3. Employ direct and indirect support strategies that will empower learners.


4. Display non-discriminatory behaviours at all times, e.g. in relation to culture, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexuality and age.


5. Support a cultural awareness of the educational setting and enable learners to understand the context in which they are learning.


6. Encourage learners wishing to explore their identity and culture.


7. Enable learners to work in a linguistic and cultural environment that may not reflect that of the minority group to which they belong. 


8. Recognise the importance of inclusion by using appropriate means of communication at all times in the presence of deaf people.


9. Be responsive to the ever-changing needs of both learners and the learning environment.


Professional relationships: CSA's should:

1. Establish a good professional relationship with colleagues. When necessary a CSA should be able to ask for clarification, support from other staff and in turn offer reasonable assistance and cooperation. A CSA should be in a position to advise and guide members of staff on deaf issues and be able to obtain schemes of work, lesson plans and handouts.


2. Develop respectful and professional working relationships with all involved with the educational process.

3. Understand the role of other professionals within the educational environment, and support learners who may be referred to them, in a professional manner.


4. Establish and maintain links with organisations working to improve access to education for deaf people.


5. Take part in professional reviews (appraisals) and observations within their educational organisation.

6. Receive feedback from learners, tutors, colleagues and managers, in a professional manner and act on their comments accordingly.


7. Contribute to reviews of support provision to enable learner support to be as effective as possible.


Resources: CSA's should:

1. Facilitate the use of assistive technology. e.g., Induction loops, SoundField systems, etc.

2. Liaise with teaching staff to ensure subtitles are available on DVDs or online clips. Where they are not available ensure time is given to create transcriptions where they cannot be sourced.

CSA's work in a specialist field and are often isolated by distance from colleagues doing the same job. Employers need to recognise the value of opportunities for CSA's to network on a regional, national or UK-wide basis and encourage and facilitate their participation. Support and enrichment gained through these activities can enhance the quality of service to learners.

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