top of page

OK- Signer, Communicator, Interpreter… What am I?

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

In my role as a Communication Support Worker (CSW), I get called a variety of titles – Signer, Communicator, Interpreter and my favourite, ‘you do the thing with the hands’.

Very occasionally, I get referred to as what I really am, a CSW.

I find that many people are unsure of the differences between the above job titles.

This can be confusing when trying to book a service. Let’s start by ruling out a few:

Signer: When searching for this as a job role, I find some interesting results - ‘Contract signers’, ‘Document Signers’ and ‘Did you mean, Singer?’. Not quite what I was looking for. Also, according to the English dictionary, this is ‘someone who communicates information to deaf people using a sign language’ – although this is a part of the role of CSW, this could really be anyone that knows a sign language.

Communicator: The closest I found to this as a job title, warranted the description of ‘drafting written materials, presentations and communicate with employees. The English dictionary defines this term as ‘a person who communicates’. So again, communicator appears to be more of a general term for someone who communicates whether that be in sign language, spoken language, smoke signals or otherwise.

‘You do the thing with the hands’: Definitely not a job title – let’s not get into this one.

Interpreter, on the other hand, is indeed a real job title. More specifically, we are referring to a British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreter. This job role is quite different to a CSW’s role, however. Let’s explore this.

To be classed as a BSL Interpreter, the person must hold a Level 6 Diploma BSL interpreting qualification and be registered with NRCDP. This is not a requirement for a CSW. Instead, they will hold a minimum BSL Level 3 qualification and a CSW qualification.


A CSW’s place of work is primarily in the education sector, providing communication support to students with varying degrees of hearing loss. This means the CSW adapts their communication method to suit the student such as using notetaking, British Sign Language, spoken English and lip-speaking.

They may also modify teaching materials to a level the student will understand and will teach deaf awareness to the student’s tutors and peers.

CSWs may also work within the workplace, supporting deaf employees, again tailoring the support to meet the needs and preferences of the deaf person.

BSL Interpreters will interpret meaning from one language (Spoken English or BSL) into another language (BSL or Spoken English). They work in any place that requires communication between a hearing person and a deaf person. This can include education and the workplace but also hospitals, police settings, counselling, doctor’s surgery and many more.

Hopefully this clears things up as knowing the differences between these two roles is important when working out what services you need. Asking for a ‘Signer’ or a ‘Communicator’ will definitely not provide you with the right support for a deaf person.


Deaf Awareness Training for companies by Deaf Umbrella

312 views0 comments
bottom of page