When it comes to communicating with the police, citizens with hearing difficulty frequently have a hard time feeling heard.
Police Officer Erik Osterkamp of Bellingham, Washington, remembers responding to a car accident where one of the parties was deaf.
“I could tell he was angry,” Osterkamp told Newschannel KIRO-7. “But his ability to communicate and my ability to understand what he was saying—there was a huge gap.”
Osterkamp worked with local advocates from Bellingham’s Hearing, Speech, and Deaf Center (HSDC) to overcome the language barrier.
Bellingham officers now carry symbol placards. Deaf and hard of hearing citizens can point to pictures to indicate whether they can read lips or text, or if they need an interpreter.
If the person points to a need for an interpreter, officers are now able to contact one within seconds using a video interpreting application installed on their smartphones.
The translator app is called LanguageLine InSight Video Interpreting. It provides on-demand, one-touch access to trained interpreters in more than 240 audio-only languages, as well as video interpreters in 36 languages, including American Sign Language.
Functioning much like FaceTime or Skype, the officer presses a single button, and within seconds, a live, professional ASL interpreter appears on the screen to interpret questions and answers between the officer and citizen.
Osterkamp calls the translator app “life-changing technology.”
“In an emergency, there’s a lot of information that needs to be transmitted quickly,” said James Christianson, an advocate with the Bellingham HSDC. “With a video interpreter, you can express [thoughts] clearly and you can have a quick back-and-forth to get all the information needed right away.”
LanguageLine Can Help
Founded in 1982 by a police officer, LanguageLine has decades of experience working with departments around the country to enhance communication with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. Please contact us to learn more about LanguageLine video interpreting, translation, and other solutions for government agencies.