Technology that speaks volumes

Council introduces innovative new video relay service for deaf residents

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21st century technology is helping deaf residents in a west London borough to deal with their local council more easily.

 

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is one of the first London boroughs to introduce an innovative new video relay service for deaf residents who prefer to use British Sign Language.

 

 Deaf people can now use video screens in council receptions to speak directly to an interpreter who relays their message live to council staff.

 

 The deaf or hard of hearing resident uses a video screen with a camera to communicate with an interpreter. The interpreter can then speak to the hearing person in the same room as the deaf person or, if the person is in an office elsewhere, can speak to the hearing person by  phone. The video interpreter then signs the response to the deaf resident via the interactive video screen.

 

Deaf resident Natalie Drytchak, who tried out the new system with the mayor of Hammersmith & Fulham, says “I talked to the mayor using the new service and found it really helpful. It will make a big difference to me as I'm now able to contact the council the way I want to."

 

The mayor Cllr Minnie Scott Russell also praised the new system after she tried it out at the official launch, last Thursday 5 October.

 

"I'm thrilled that the council is now providing this professional service for deaf residents in Hammersmith & Fulham, it's a good example of the council putting residents first," she says. "It gives more choice and flexibility for deaf people using council services than ever before."

 

The system drastically cuts the time it takes deaf people to deal with the council and is now available at 145 King Street and Fulham town hall.

 

Although the new system is meant to help resolve general enquiries like housing repairs, council tax or parking fines it is not meant to replace face to face interpretation for more complex enquiries.

 

Simon Hesselberg, who is also deaf, says, "I think this is a fantastic service, deaf people pay council taxes like everyone else, and we can now get equal access to council services."

 

The service is available from 9.00am to 5.00pm at two sites, one in the north and one in the south of the borough.

 

 

October 9, 2006