Signed supported Lipspeaking


I’m deaf. I lip read and I find some signs help me. Can you help?

A regular request for lipspeakers and a growing method of communication support. But what is it? Where does it fit? Is there a qualification?

Well you certainly won’t find anything that resembles this on the Signature website. There is no professional qualification. It is known as Lipspeaking with Signed Support. (LSS)

The issue facing Lipspeakers and deaf people is the vast difference in the ability of Lipspeakers to deliver effective lipspeaking and signs at the same time.

One could argue that those holding the highest BSL credentials would be the best.However this isn’t always the case. In fact the opposite could be true.

Many Lipspeakers will try too hard to concentrate on which is the correct sign to add, and in context, their mouth patterns, facial expressions and natural gesture weakens. Those with higher BSL skills could start to emulate BSL lip patterns instead, resulting in incorrect lip patterns and confusion.

Confused? Let’s go back to basics……….

lesley lipspeaking

Lesley providing SSL at Winchester Great Hall for Hampshire County Council.

Lipspeaking in its purest form relies only on mouth pattern, facial expression, natural gesture and if requested, some finger spelling to support words that are difficult to lip read. ( think of lip reading the words Few and View. Much clearer if the lipspeaker adds a F or V respectively and uses her eyes to ‘view’ or facial expression to support the word ‘few’.).

Or say the word Statistic in the mirror without using your voice. Can you lip read it? It’s virtually impossible but with the sign added, it becomes much clearer as the user will understand the word from the sign and not worry about the lip pattern.

Lip reading alone is hard even for the most experienced lip readers. It’s tiring, and only 40-50% of what is said is lip readable.

Statistics are hard to find to support any such claim but it is generally accepted that with a qualified lipspeaker, around 60% of any message is lip readable, yet with LSS some users claim that over 90% is understood.

Very subjective stats I know, but in the absence of any substantive research, one has to reply on the voice of the lip reader.

Many of us lipspeakers are asked to add some signs. Those who can, do so.

We are now having to ask at each booking if the user needs some signs. This is very different from before, when a booking was pure lipspeaking.

More and more Lipspeakers are now learning how to sign to be able to meet this growing demand and many BSL interpreters are now training to be Lipspeakers (the latest lipspeaker level 3 training course has 5 interpreters from the 14 students)

Critics may say you can’t mix sign with lipspeaking.  Well you can. I have been doing it successfully for over ten years.

I work freelance, and clients include the British government in many different departments – including the home office, foreign and commonwealth office – as well as the court and police services, health, education and various charities.

I work full time and the demand for LSS is growing. The majority of clients are post lingual deafened people but more and more are cochlear implant users who decide to move away from BSL into English but need to learn to lip read.

A lipspeaker offering sign language support is often appealing once they know it exists.

Lipspeakers pare down the message when the speaker talks quickly. We remove redundant language without changing the meaning. This means we process the message, remove what isn’t necessary, (if someone said
“two twins” for example, the word two would be removed).

This is a skill in itself but to then add a sign, in context, keeping one’s lip patterns lip readable and continue, usually alone for up to two hours is no mean feat.

In 2013 I was honoured to receive the Signature Communication Professional of the Year Award; only the second lipspeaker to receive this accolade so I must be doing something right.