Over the past four months, a remote sign language interpreting service aimed at serving speakers of sign language with reduced capacity for work and with hearing impairments has been used more than 800 times. With the support of the European Social Fund (ESF), the Social Insurance Board (SKA) has been offering the service in Estonia since May.
Timo Hansman, project manager of the SKA's interpreting services, noted that there are as many as 1,500 people in Estonia who regularly need the assistance of sign language interpretation in order to communicate with hearers, according to an SKA press release.
According to Hansman, deaf people often need the services of an interpreter in everyday situations, such as in communicating with an employer, a family doctor or a public institution.
"Thanks to the remote interpreting service, with the assistance of an interpreter, they can call their doctor or employer without having to specifically order interpretation or go to an interpretation center in person," he said, highlighting the positive aspects of the available service, noting that this is certainly cheaper, more flexible as well as more user-friendly.
"Sign language interpreters are often concentrated in bigger cities — Tallinn, Tartu, and Pärnu," Hansman noted. "People with hearing impairments live throughout Estonia, though, including in smaller regions. The remote interpreting service helps save interpreters time that would otherwise be spent on transport, as well as brings interpreting services to those areas where there are no interpreters nearby. Currently, only working-age deaf people can use the service, but our goal is for this to be accessible for everyone who needs it."
The SKA offers its remote sign language interpreting service via Skype, currently from Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., no appointment necessary. Interpreters can be contacted via webcam connected to the internet or via smart device.
Starting this summer, the SKA also began offering a telecommunications relay service (TRS) for individuals with reduced capacity for work and with hearing impairments. In use, an interpreter types up a hearing person's speech, which is displayed on a screen where the service user can read it.
Visit the Social Insurance Board's homepage for more information and contacts.
Editor: Aili Vahtla