Brazil: New app translates from sign language to Portuguese

Innovation to be presented at Sao Paulo's Reatech fair

(ANSA) - A Sao Paulo NGO has developed an application that can simultaneously translate from Brazilian sign language (Libras) to Portuguese.
    The aim is to help deaf people's engagement in society and facilitate their interactions with companies and public services.
    Available for the OS and Android systems, "Icom" was created by AME (the association of metropolitan friends of the exceptional ones - Associazione amici metropolitani degli eccezionali) and will be presented at the Reatech accessibility fair, which takes place June 13-16 in Sao Paulo.
    The application provides a call centre that is open 24 hours a day and works via video calls: when a company employee, an office or a public service receives a deaf person, for example, they can connect to the AME call centre, which provides a simultaneous translation from Portuguese to Libras and vice versa. "The application was designed to satisfy a need that companies have," AME President Joseph Araujo Neto told ANSA in an interview.
    "The law ensures that deaf people can have assistance in their own language, but there was no effective mechanism to guarantee this communication takes place". At the moment the application has around 30 companies among its clients, including the airline Gol, which uses it at its desks at the Guarulhos and Congonhas airports in Sao Paulo. Another possible use for the app is to make it possible for deaf professionals to communicate with their colleagues. Icom has 45 interpreters to provide the service, which is free for the deaf, and only a small part of them work remotely. According to Neto, however, there is still a "very strong cultural barrier" within firms. "People like the app, they are fascinated by it, because it has a very strong initial impact, but the decision to go ahead and buy it is still difficult, not because it is expensive, but because we are still faced with cultural resistance," the AME President explained. Despite this, Neto said he has noticed a "clear" difference in 2019.
    "We attribute much of this to the fact that the federal government has shown concern for the inclusion of deaf people," he said, adding that the next stop will be to offer a programme that is "sponsored on the Internet". According to the AME chief, the digital infrastructure needed to be able to run the app and do the video calls is lacking in many places, especially in public agencies. "The solution is in the hands of the deaf people, via their smartphones," he explained, stressing that using Icom does not consume data from the user's package. AME will have a stand at Reatech, where it will install terminals so that visitors can try the app.
    Organized by Cipa Fiera Milano, the fair is a showcase for new technologies for the inclusion, accessibility and rehabilitation of people with disabilities and reduced mobility.