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Sign-language service via iPads tested by JR East

Kyodo

East Japan Railway Co. began testing a sign-language interpretation service in Tokyo on Monday using a videophone application on an Apple iPad tablet for the hearing-impaired.

The application allows passengers at information booths to use sign language and ask questions to a call-center operator via the iPad. The operator then orally relays the questions to a JR information guide before using sign language to return the guide’s answers to the passenger.

The test service will be available at 12 information booths in seven JR stations — Tokyo, Shinagawa, Ueno, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya and Akihabara — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until next March before JR East considers whether to expand the service.

JR East had previously only used written messages for guiding hearing-impaired people.

“The new simultaneous interpretation service makes communication smooth,” an information booth attendant at Shinagawa Station said.

JR East said the system will also be used to communicate with foreign passengers by connecting them with operators who can speak English, Chinese or Korean.