Mobile app offers on-demand American Sign Language interpretation

Image from FastCompany / Jeenie

Jeenie is an American language interpretation app which offers deaf and hard of hearing users an alternative to traditional telecommunication relay services (TRS) in the form of on-demand American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. 

An interpreter will appear within a minute of a user starting an ASL video call, at any time of day. During the conversation, the user may use one-handed signing (a shortcut that allows them to hold their mobile device with the other hand) and the interpreter speaks loudly so the other person in the room can clearly hear.

Previously the app offered live interpreters in other languages for hearing customers in need of a translator, for example while traveling or for language practice. The founders of Jeenie realized that the deaf community did not have a similar affordable on-demand option for use in everyday life. Jeenie charges $1 per minute and also offers packages with lower rates. The company currently works with around 100 ASL interpreters.

Laura Yellin, a woman who is deaf who tested the app’s new ASL feature, said, “It can be challenging to communicate in everyday life with people who are not fluent in ASL. For example, dealing with an issue at the dry cleaners and needing to talk to a supervisor or manager can be tricky via paper and pen or typing on the phone back and forth. It makes it a lot easier to have an interpreter available for situations like that.”

The company is interested in working with businesses and organizations serving the public, such as medical offices, which through the American Disabilities Act are required to accommodate deaf customers. The developers also hope to expand to other sign languages, such as British Sign Language or Chinese Sign Language, in the future.