Use of interpretation app makes Newport nation’s first ‘Deaf-Friendly City’

Newport Beach has been named a “Deaf-Friendly City” for using mobile technology to connect deaf and hard-of-hearing people with municipal services.

Through dedicated tablet devices placed at City Hall, libraries and other city facilities, people who need sign-language interpretation can have an on-demand, real-time remote video conference with interpreters from Language People Inc., a Murrieta-based language-services company.

The free service also connects hearing, non-English-speaking people with spoken interpretation.

Language People’s proprietary application has been in public places across the country for some time, including hospitals, schools and Newport Beach’s PizzaBar restaurant.

But Newport’s local government is the first in the nation to offer the service, making the city also the first to be certified by Language People as deaf-friendly.

“It’s really, really cool, and they’re setting an example for the rest of the country,” said Language People’s Jeff Stroud.

Stroud said this kind of service will become more common now that the technology exists to make interpretation — which is required under federal law — easier and more cost-effective.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires public places to provide auxiliary means of communication for people who need it. But, Stroud said, at the time the law was passed in 1990, videoconferencing technology didn’t exist. In-person interpretation was best, and if having an in-house interpreter presented an undue burden, an organization was exempt.

“When I first envisioned the need to connect all residents and visitors with city services, I did not think the city would be leading the way,” Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon said in a statement. “It’s an honor to be recognized as the first deaf-friendly city in the nation.”

The city and Language People will hold a public reception Friday to demonstrate the software. The event begins at 6 p.m. at Marina Park, 1600 W. Balboa Blvd. Demonstrations begin at 6:30.

Residents and visitors can use the app at the following locations during regular business hours:

• Newport Coast Community Center, 6401 San Joaquin Hills Road

• Oasis Senior Center, 801 Narcissus Ave.

• Marina Park, 1600 W. Balboa Blvd.

• Central Library, 1000 Avocado Ave.

• Mariners Library, 1300 Irvine Ave.

• City clerk’s office and the permit center at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive