Duke’s Disability Management System is using a new tool to effectively communicate with visitors, employees and students who are deaf, hard of hearing or have limited English proficiency. 

Duke has partnered with Stratus Video, a video remote interpreting company, to provide real-time language translation through a mobile app on iPads. Stratus provides 24/7 translation for 27 languages, including American Sign Language, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.  

Currently, Duke Human Resources, Undergraduate Admissions and Disability Management each have the Stratus app on an iPad in their offices. Other university departments interested in the translation service should contact Disability Management for more information.

“This tool will be excellent for transactional conversations or if there’s time gap in between someone needing a translator and that interpreter arriving,” said Leigh Fickling, director of Disability Management. “Say someone who’s deaf or hard of hearing walks into our office, and we don’t have anyone working that day who knows sign language. We can quickly pull up Stratus and be able to communicate within seconds.” 

The app’s home screen features a list of the 27 languages available for live translation. When a user chooses a language, a connection to the service is made and an interpreter appears on the screen within one minute. The user and Stratus translator see and hear each other, similar to FaceTime and Skype. 

Jacky Labonte, assistant director of the Human Resources Information Center in Duke Human Resources, said the app will be used by staff working at the front desk in Duke Human Resources. 

“Video interpreting enables each person who enters our door to be able to communicate to the fullest and engage with our front desk personnel,” she said. “We’ll be able to communicate on the spot and answer questions without delay.”