Pandemic Gives Push to Remote Sign Language Interpretation

Society Lifestyle

Tokyo, April 5 (Jiji Press)--Japanese municipalities are increasingly introducing sign language interpretation services using smartphones as the coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult to offer such services in person.

The significance of sign language interpretation is growing as people with hearing impairment are increasingly having difficulty reading the facial expressions and lip movements of others due to face masks.

But interpreters have no choice but to decline requests from clients with suspected COVID-19 symptoms or who want to visit places with high infection risks. "I feel scared at times when I have to take off my face mask for communications," said Kazuyo Ochiai, a sign language interpreter in Tokyo.

To address the pandemic-induced difficulties, 41 of the country's 47 prefectures and 29 municipalities have introduced remote sign language interpretation services, according to the National Research Association for Sign Language Interpretation.

Noriko Miyazawa, a director of the association, said that sign language interpreters are concentrated in populated areas. "If remote services spread, it will meet needs in regions with a small number of interpreters," she said.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press