Communication Support Workers (CSW)

A CSW supports deaf people in different ways to enable communication between Deaf and Hearing people; it depends on what language and support the Deaf person prefers to use. They may want a notetaker, a lipspeaker, a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter or a Sign Supported English (SSE) interpreter. An NVQ Level 6 CSW/ TSLI / Registered Sign Language Interpreter can be more suited to a more demanding level of signing e.g. a Higher Education Lecture, formal meeting etc.

CSWs are not usually qualified BSL/English interpreters, though more are now training at this level. They provide language and communication support.
For example, they:

  • help deaf people understand and produce written material in class/ at work
  • adapt the language of learning/ written materials to help a deaf person understand more easily
  • suggest improvements to the physical environment at college/work to make it easier for the person to lip-read or use hearing aids

When should I use a CSW?

CSWs usually work with deaf students in colleges of further education, universities and training centres. This includes students on work experience placements and in residential settings. A CSW can sometimes work with a deaf person in employment or outside of educational settings; for example, helping a deaf person fill in a form in English, or supporting someone in a one-to-one meeting with their manager.


When not to use a CSW

If a deaf student needs other support at college, such as extra tutorials to discuss the English language content of their course, or to go over new ideas, then a Tutor of the Deaf (TOD) should do this work instead of, and in addition to, a CSW.

CSWs should not be asked to act as a tutor. For example, they should not be asked to create handouts or information sheets for overhead projectors or to go through work outside class.

If a deaf person just needs access to information and not extra support, then they should be provided with that. For example, it may be better to get a BSL/English interpreter or a lip-speaker.

How many CSWs/ Communicators/ Interpreters should I book?

The number of support staff required will depend on:

  • The abilities/ levels of the CSWs
  • The time of day and availability of staff
  • The pace of the course/ session and how demanding it is- sometimes two CSWs/Interpreters will co-work if the booking is very demanding and for a long period of time
  • Teaching/ delivery style
  • The type of support the student needs, because a CSW cannot sign and take notes at the same time