How a Japanese entrepreneur is using Skype to make the deaf 'hear'

How a Japanese entrepreneur is using Skype to make the deaf 'hear'

Saturday July 08, 2017,

3 min Read

In the year 2008, Junto Ohki was studying in Keio University when he started understanding the problems faced by his fellow students with hearing impairment. How can someone with hearing impairment call a doctor or an ambulance service when he or she is sick? The question made him wonder for awhile and disturbed him enough to make him start his company, ShuR Co, when he was in his sophomore year.

In Japan, hiring a sign language interpreter is a strenuous process. One has to send a fax two weeks in advance to a local municipal body. As and when an interpreter is available, they will be assigned and the information will be sent back in fax. ShuR Co aims at changing this by providing Skype-based interpreting services to people with hearing impairment.

Image: (L) – The Japan Times; (R) – Linked In

They can use the service to ask questions on anything, ranging from ordering food to finding how to book tickets. The individual users are not charged, but corporation that serves these customers are made to pay for the service provided. According to The Japan Times, Junto said,

“I was studying IT business (at university). Though Skype wasn’t that popular at that time, I thought if we use this technology, we can remotely provide sign language interpretation for people with hearing disabilities without actually dispatching interpreters.”

More than 400 establishments including hospitals, customer support centres, and shopping centres from across Japan have made use of the firm's interpreters.

Junto is also credited for creating SLinto, world's first online sign language dictionary.

Though there are more than six million children across the globe with hearing impairment, stigma discrimination and lack of resources are huge barriers for the children to even complete school education. Talking about the problems faced by children trying to function in school, educator Roseanne Silberman told the New Delhi Times,

“Even talking about being hungry, being thirsty, wanting to go to the bathroom, if you are in pain or in discomfort — our kids have no way of expressing it without having teachers who are expert in teaching communications skills.”

To overcome the constraints, in the recent United Nations convention it was decided to train one million teachers by the year 2030 on how to teach children with disabilities.

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