From the Town of Great Barrington

If a language barrier makes it hard for residents and visitors to do business at Town Hall, there’s now an app for that.

The town recently repurposed six town-owned iPads, which are now dedicated to town offices to translate staff conversations with residents and visitors who do not speak English. With these new devices, it’s easier to communicate effectively and manage routine transactions, no matter what language is spoken and may also be used as an aid for people with hearing impairments.

The translation app, which offers a wide range of languages, allows an employee and visitor to communicate with a voice recognition or texting option. Town employees are getting accustomed to the new translation app, which is available on iPads in the office of the Selectboard, Town Clerk and Treasurer/Collector and Board of Health. Others will be available soon to the Claire Teague Senior Center, libraries and Great Barrington Police Department and the Building Inspector’s Office.

Town Clerk Jennifer Messina, whose office is busiest in assisting visitors, was testing out the app this week. On her iPad, she typed, “Would you like help getting your birth certificate?” and the instant translation appeared on the screen in Spanish: “¿Desea ayuda para obtenir su certificado de naciamento?”

“Everyone should feel welcome doing business at Town Hall, and if technology can help us bridge a language barrier, we’ll take it,” said Town Manager Mark Pruhenski. “The town has made a commitment to inclusiveness and this is one good step in that direction.”

Article Image: Jennifer Messina (taken from the Town of Great Barrington's website)

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