Innovative Practice 2018 on Accessibility

Video-sign language service throughout the country

FENASCOL (National Association of the Deaf in Colombia) is an NGO founded in 1984 and based in Bogota, Colombia. In 2001 it started a project called Centro de Relevo (Relay Service), which enables telephone communication between deaf and hearing people by means of Colombian sign language interpreters. Following its initial launch in the capital city, the service is now offered nationwide, reaching some 18,000 deaf people over the last three years.

“I am very excited because is the first time that I can communicate with my mother in a direct way and I can’t believe that thanks to the interpreter, she could understand to me and all that I wanted to say to her”

Damaris Esther SilveraUser
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Video-sign language service throughout the country
Organisation:Federación Nacional de Sordos de Colombia – FENASCOL
Country
of Implementation
Colombia and worldwide

FACTS & FIGURES

  • 2009 to 2014: 9,900 beneficiaries
  • 2015: 5,000 new beneficiaries
  • 2016: 3,130 new beneficiaries

PROBLEMS TARGETED

Deaf people in Columbia were unable to access telephone communications, and there was a scarcity of interpreters, with only one interpreter available for every 239 hearing-impaired persons.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

The FENASCOL project “Centro de Relevo” (Relay Service) allows hearing-impaired people to find an interpreter – via a text message or the internet – who will provide them with free translation service over a fixed line or mobile phone within Colombia for a maximum of 15 minutes. This interpreter can also provide a variety of other communication services, such as for medical appointments, work-related consultations, legal formalities, and other similar situations for a maximum of 30 minutes.
A person presenting the video sign language. No sophisticated equipment is needed, as it is only necessary to be able to access the internet or to use a mobile phone application designed for this purpose. The project is a public-private alliance in which the functions of the operator and the project leader are filled by hearing-impaired persons themselves. Using the technology, the project’s 50 working interpreters can operate from home in all areas of the country. The services are available every day of the week, including Sundays and holidays.
Since 2009 some 2 million free calls have been made and 15,000 online interpreting services have been provided. Over the last three years, some 18,000 deaf people have benefitted.

OUTLOOK, TRANSFERABILITY AND FUNDING

With the expansion of broadband in Colombia in 2009 it became possible to start this service via a web platform, from which it can be provided in any municipality in the country. Consequently, there is now a strategy in place for rolling-out the service to more regions and to provide ICT familiarization days to further increase the system’s usage.
Any Colombian or foreign deaf person living in or traveling through Colombia can access the website to make a call within Colombia at no cost. In 2013 the service was replicated in Paraguay, and at present FENASCOL provides consultancy services to Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico. The organization states that in order to operate this service successfully, it needs the backing of public finance in the country concerned and a public policy supporting the implementation of such a project.
In 2017 the annual cost of the service is 827,500 US-Dollars, with 95 per cent of the funds provided by the national government. A study is currently being carried out seeking to achieve future self-sustainabilityA group of people using the video sign language..
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FACTSHEET

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