FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kelly Chesney
November 18, 2008 (517) 353-2520
Secretary Land announces pilot to assist customers who are deaf and hard of hearing
Program enhances service options, provides greater flexibility
Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land today announced that a pilot program under way at select branch offices will provide customers who use sign language with greater flexibility and freedom when conducting business with the department.
The program uses a monitor with a built-in camera and audio system to connect the customer and branch office clerk to a sign language interpreter at a special communication relay center. The system provides a means of communication that is more natural and faster than using a pencil and paper or lip-reading, especially for people who exclusively use sign language. It also presents customers who are deaf and hard of hearing with the option of accessing interpreter services on the spot.
“We’re always looking for innovative ways to improve customer service,” Land said. “By providing video remote interpreter services, we not only make the communication process timely but also ensure that information is being conveyed and understood correctly. It’s a win-win situation for the customer and the department.”
Tom Masseau, government and media relations director for Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, said the system is an exciting initiative that bridges the communication gap by providing people who are deaf or hard of hearing with equal access to services.
“People who are deaf and hard of hearing face communication challenges every day,” Masseau said. “By providing them with the means to converse easily and readily at a branch office, they are granted the right to communicate on an equal basis with others, which is the right of every individual. I commend Secretary Land for introducing this accessible system.”
The pilot was unveiled at the Flint Area SUPER!Center, 5512 Fenton Road. It is now also available at the following locations:
Clinton Township SUPER!Center, 37015 S. Gratiot Ave.
Detroit New Center SUPER!Center, Cadillac Place, 3046 W. Grand Blvd.
Grand Rapids Area SUPER!Center, Centerpointe Mall, 3665 28th St. S.E.
Grand Traverse County PLUS Office, 1759 Barlow St., Traverse City
Lansing Area PLUS Office, 5827 W. Saginaw
Livonia Area SUPER!Center, 17176 Farmington Road
Muskegon Secretary of State office, 1485 E. Apple Ave.
Northwest Berrien County PLUS Office, 1960 Mall Drive, Benton Harbor
Oakland County SUPER!Center, 1608 N. Perry St., Pontiac
Accessing the service is easy. A customer-service specialist at the branch office directs interested customers to a clerk and video relay monitor. The customer signs as the interpreter on screen voices the comments, which the clerk hears through a headset. The clerk’s responses are picked up by a microphone, and the interpreter translates the speech into signs for the customer. There is no cost to the customer.
The Department of State contracted with the private, nonprofit Communication Access Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Flint to provide the video remote interpreter services. The CAC offers a variety of community-based programs in addition to interpreter services, including sign language classes, deaf awareness and advocacy programs, information and referrals as well as a vocational program.
“We are very pleased to be a part of this exciting new service,” said Julie Miron, CAC executive director. “Thanks to modern telecommunication and Internet technology, we are able to provide interpreting services for deaf and hearing individuals no matter where they are located. Timely and accurate communication reduces misunderstandings, which benefits the customer and the Secretary of State.”
For more information about the CAC and the services it offers, visit its Web site at http://www.cacdhh.org.
The goal of Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service is to advance the dignity, equality, self-determination and expressed choices of individuals. The agency promotes, expands and protects the human and legal rights of people by providing them with information and advocacy. MPAS has offices in Lansing, Livonia and Marquette. Visit its Web site at www.mpas.org.
To locate the nearest PLUS office or SUPER!Center, access the department’s “Branch Office Locator” on its Web site at www.Michigan.gov/sos.