Cleveland police get new iPads, app to communicate with deaf residents

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CLEVELAND – Every day, Cleveland Police come into contact with people from all kinds of backgrounds, including members of the deaf community, and sometimes it’s not always easy to communicate with them if they don’t know sign language, but they’re now being given a new tool to help with that.

"The Cleveland Division of Police is very excited to offer this new technology to help with the deaf and hard of hearing community,” said Captain Jim McPike. “So every police district now has an iPad available where an officer can access an app on the iPad and get a live American Sign Language interpreter.”

Captain McPike talked more about the iPads during a training session at the Justice Center downtown. He said they’re very easy to use. First, the officer pulls up the app, called Z5, and then he connects with an interpreter.

"I think a lot of people make the assumption, I know I did at the beginning of this process, that American Sign Language is just a translation of English. It is not. It is actually its own separate language, which is why when we try to ask a deaf person to write back and forth, it's either not appropriate or not effective,” he explained.

Joe Riggio knows how frustrating it can be to try communicating with police when they don’t know sign language. It’s part of the reason he’s so passionate about promoting the app.

"Instead of waiting several hours for an interpreter to actually arrive, this makes it easier and more seamless because information can get lost over time while you're waiting for the interpreter to come, so this will make the process more seamless,” he said.

To learn more about the app, CLICK HERE.