Roanoke tackles the language barrier | Government and Politics


In addition, the system allows video conferencing. This means that city employees, who have password access to the Volatia app, can choose a video conference over an audio call if they wish. If a resident in need of assistance happens to be physically present, video may be the solution.

A faster protocol provides interpretation for the 911 system to avoid delaying the caller report.

Hedrick, the program manager, said it might take some time for city staff and city service users to understand how the system works. A period of training has started which will continue, she said, including the possible publication of a video to explain the system to members of the community.

Hedrick demonstrated the system on Friday using an iPad tablet that was placed in the lobby of the Noel C. Taylor Municipal Building. From a language menu, she selected Swahili with the touch of a finger. Invisible to users, the software summoned a Swahili interpreter to the call.

Within moments, Evans Otieno appeared via videoconference from Nairobi, Kenya. Upon learning of its location, Hedrick mentioned that one of the sister cities in the Roanoke Valley is Kisumu, Kenya.

“This is my hometown,” Otieno said.

Roanoke being a resettlement area for longtime refugees, dozens of languages ​​are spoken locally. In addition to Swahili, a language spoken in Africa, foreign languages ​​commonly spoken in Roanoke are Spanish, Dari, Haitian Creole, Nepalese and Arabic, Hedrick said. There are 7,000 languages ​​in the world, of which Volatia says it has 286.

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