- New York City has added a video communication service, ASL Direct, for hearing impaired residents who use American Sign Language (ASL) and want information about or access to city services.
- Users connect with a person fluent in ASL through a webcam conversation. The service also has a messaging feature.
- The service can be used on a computer or via an app on a mobile device.
Communicating with people who do not know ASL can be challenging for hearing impaired individuals. Although technology provides options such as text messages or emails, those aren't always available as a means of communication. Plus, they're often not practical ways to obtain real-time information or ask questions to municipal workers. Emailing, for example, takes much longer to get a response and can be a difficult way through which to clearly convey information for complex matters.
"Deaf and hard of hearing New Yorkers now have a one-stop shop for information, whether it’s how to find affordable housing, enroll in Pre-K or where to get a flu shot," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement. New York claims to the be the first city in the country to use this type of ASL video chat service to ease communication with hearing impaired people.
More cities and technology developers are paying greater attention to accommodating and including citizens with disabilities. Microsoft, for example, just released Soundscape, a free app that gives visually impaired people 3-D audio cues to better navigate a city. Embracing these technologies and forming partnerships to expand services for people with disabilities helps cities boost their equity and inclusivity.