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March 13, 2004

Videophone translations to aid deaf customers

From: ABC Online - Australia - Mar 13, 2004

An interpretation service company will launch a new operation to translate sign language via videophones at counters at department stores, banks and travel agencies in the city of Fukuoka, Japan, in April.

Tisco Japan says with the introduction of the new service, hearing-impaired customers will be able to communicate better with shop clerks through a sign language interpretation system at the company's call centre.

The system will translate sign language to shop clerks and convey the clerks' messages to hearing-impaired people using sign language.

The call centre will contain computers equipped with cameras and microphones at stores.

''Compared with writing messages, people will be able to communicate in more detail,'' company president Toru Ninomiya said.

''I believe the system will be helpful for businesses that need to have detailed explanations.''

The company decided to introduce the new service after 80 per cent of hearing-impaired people and 90 per cent of shop assistants in an experimental test of the system in February last year said they found it useful.

The company says it also plans to encourage the city government and ''koban'' police boxes to use the system.

-- Kyodo

© 2004 Australian Broadcasting Corporation