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British Sign Language Communication Support Assistants

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 a BSL CSA: 

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 performances and implement targets to develop skills and abilities

7. Work with a range of professionals

8. Meet professional requirements

Things to consider when working in educational settings as according to our Core Delivery Policy:

How will the CSA deliver direct feedback from the Tutor to the student and how they will make sure they understand the content?


  • Whilst the BSL CSA’s are able to assist with clarification and/or understanding where possible, it is important that any such instances are tutor-driven. If the BSL CSA is required to clarify a student’s understanding whilst the Tutor continues with the lesson then other vital information may be missed.

  • The predominant role of the BSL CSA is to relay verbal communications and enable fair and equal access to information


To adapt communication to ensure students can access the work:
This will be an on-going, collaborative effort involving the BSL CSA, the Tutor, LSA’s and fellow class-mates. We all need to work together to ensure the Deaf student has equal, diverse and inclusive access to communication, information and learning (emotionally, intellectually, socially and economically). This is done through initial translation, clarification techniques and subsequent adaptations of a Signers skillset in order to match the individuals’ preferences for perceptive and comprehension.

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