Clearwater company helps the deaf connect - FOX 13 News

Clearwater company helps the deaf connect


It's hard to imagine what life would be like without being able to talk on the phone, but what if you were deaf?

Fortunately, people who cannot hear can still chat in real-time on the phone with friends and family thanks to a Clearwater company called ZVRS Stratus.

The company started with a handful of employees in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, then moved to Florida seven years ago and business took off.

There are now 600 employees across the country. Stratus Video Solutions is a phone company for the deaf providing live interpreters using a special video phone, or the push of a button using a custom app on an iPad or smartphone.

"Hit a button and an interpreter is looking at you live right there," explained company CEO Sean Belanger. "We are really a combination of an interpreting company and a high-tech company. The development of the app really was the catalyst to making it uniquely and immediately available."

FOX 13 first showed you this technology last month when little Claire Koch's video went viral. It showed the kindergartner using sign language during her school holiday program so her deaf parents could understand the words to the songs.

LINK: Claire's video

Her parents, Lori and Tom, received calls from all over the country. They were able to talk with friends, relatives and reporters using the technology from Stratus Video Solutions.

The interpreters are scatted throughout the United States in 27 different call centers. The service is free to deaf people, fully funded by the Federal Communications Commission.

In the company's customer service center, 90 percent of the employees are deaf. Status Video Solutions is now moving beyond American Sign Language and into instant foreign language translation as well.

"Quickly put up a screen and hit Spanish and have a Spanish interpreter; hit ASL and you have American Sign Language," Belanger said.

The company is now handling about 40,000 calls a day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, connecting millions of people all over the county who otherwise might feel disconnected.

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