Piotr Kowalski – coordinator of Wideotłumacz – a service of the Polski Związek Głuchych [Polish Deaf Association] which offers translation from sign language to Polish language in any moment of usual working hours.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
Gaining big clients, like mBank. We run the Wideotłumacz project since 4 years, I was and I’m still convinced that the first big client makes the whole thing easier. We are now in two tendering processes, if we get chosen I can leave this project to the next person. It’s empowering us, it shows that serious company trust us, big corporations. Our success is that more and more organizations use Wideotlumacz. Every week we talk with the next client and most of them sign contracts. The market is still huge, I’m sure it will grow.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
System solutions. My failure is that I was still not able to convince the government that we need a 24-hour interpreting center, above all connected with 112, so deaf people can contact the same way as hearing people with emergency phone services. When this is done, we will be able to provide this service in an open way, to everybody. It will be possible to call any place. We don’t have enough money for now to provide Wideotłumacz for longer than Monday to Friday in usual working hours. Another challenge is that if I concentrated only on that, it would go much faster. But it’s one of the many things I do, so I don’t have as much time as I could. It’s not just a side project, it’s important part of my job, but for sure I cannot say the most important or other are less important that this one.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
Unification of our services. We built it piece by piece so we have three different services, by phone is working in one way, by computer in another, by application differently, now we are trying to unify it. When we started to work with mBank we managed to do it a little, I hope that with next client we will make next step. Beside that we need more clients, longer hours of work of interpreters. Hospitals come to us… it’s a kind of inconsistency in Polish law. To have the 3rd level of recommendation as hospital you need to provide the service in sign language 24/7. If 10 hospitals come to me together, I would have enough money and they, without paying a huge toll, could have this service 24/7. But because they come one by one, the money to invest is huge. It’s difficult to reach system solution, explain that it could be done differently.
Would you like to add something more?
We work together, Polski Związek Głuchych [Polish Deaf Association] and cooperative Fado. Fado is for running the business side and hiring some of the people who used to work in PZG. We moved to Fado this part of PZG work, which was connected with commercial side like translating to sign language, creating subtitles for movies, we work on adapting websites, we do accessibility audits. In practice, it doesn’t matter if it’s PZG or Fado, it’s the same. It’s more of an organizational division than essential. Wideotłumacz is the paid service of PZG. We don’t get profits out of it, we cover the cost, so also salary of interpreters, some part of my salary, access to Internet and other. From the technical point of view it looks like that: there are two interpreters who sit in PZG since 8 am to 6 pm, from Monday to Friday and a little bit during the weekend and they are ready to answer calls. It can be a video call from your phone, or computer with camera, headphones and microphone. It can be a tablet. We also have few clients for helpline service, so as you and me, we can call the helpline and talk about washing powder, if it’s good or not, and in our case about trains, violence and with ombudsman, the same deaf person, from his/her house, using his/her computer can call the interpreter and interpreter call the helpline. We want it to be equal, not worse or better, but the same, we need alternative for voice calls. We don’t have a lot of calls, it’s not that interpreters complain for hand pain because they have overworked. But every day there is some, longer, shorter, for important issues or less important. Once I’ve seen 1,5h talk with mBank, it was so long because the client was happy that finally he can really get information. It was cool, it was equal. For the first time he could ask for everything connected with the service.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Lodz, Poland, 24th September 2016