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The Little Start-Up From Toulouse Giving A Voice To The Deaf

Remote live sign interpreters help deaf people via videophone calls
Remote live sign interpreters help deaf people via videophone calls
Laurent Marcaillou

TOULOUSE – In France alone, there are 500,000 deaf people, and that doesn't even include those who are partially deaf or have hearing problems. About half of deaf people in France are unemployed.

Launched in 2001, French start-up Websourd is a cooperative that publishes videos in sign language on the Internet, which can also help integrate more into the world of work.

Among the innovative services Toulouse-based cooperative Websourd provides is an interactive news website in sign language and Elision (also called Visio), a remote communication service with sign language interpreters. This service enables deaf people to have one-on-one videophone calls with hearing people, with the help of remote live sign interpreters.

About 20 local public services, city halls, and sectors such as insurance, banking and transit) have adopted this technology. There are also special phone booths that use Elision, and the service is available from home with a subscription, with more than 900 individuals and businesses subscribing to the service.

"The market is estimated at 80 million euros per year, but we would need 4,000 interpreters, and there are only 300," says François Goudenove, director of the cooperative.

Job searches and avatars

In 2012, Websourd launched its new job search portal Jobsourd, which collects job postings, CVs and sells services to recruiters. Partner-companies, which include French telecoms and energy suppliers, aircraft manufacturer Airbus, defense contractor Thales etc. also have access to Elision.

Before the end of the year, Websourd will also launch– in partnership with state-owned broadcaster France Televisions – an online TV channel that will broadcast news reports in sign language.

The cooperative devotes 20% of its activity to research. It has just created an avatar sign language interpreter, who delivers messages on large screens in train stations.

"We are one of the first in the world to have developed this kind of technology and we hope to be able to export it," says Goudenove, whose goal this year is to raise two to three million euros. With a 30% growth per year, the cooperative achieved a turnover of 2.5 million euros in 2012, with 36 employees – of whom more than half are deaf or hard of hearing.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Black Sea Survivor: Tale Of A Ukrainian Special Agent Thrown Overboard In Enemy Waters

This is a tale of a Ukrainian special forces operator who wound up surviving 14 hours at sea, staying afloat and dodging Russian air and sea patrols.

Black Sea Survivor: Tale Of A Ukrainian Special Agent Thrown Overboard In Enemy Waters

Looking at the Black Sea in Odessa, Ukraine.

Rustem Khalilov and Roksana Kasumova

KYIV — During a covert operation in the Black Sea, a Ukrainian special agent was thrown overboard and spent the next 14 hours alone at sea, surrounded by enemy forces.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The agent, who uses the call-sign "Conan," agreed to speak to Ukrainska Pravda, to share the details of nearly being lost forever at sea. He also shared some background on how he arrived in the Ukrainian special forces. Having grown up in a village in a rural territory of Ukraine, Conan describes himself as "a simple guy."

He'd worked in law enforcement, personal security and had a job as a fitness trainer when Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. That's when he signed up with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Main Directorate of Intelligence "Artan" battalion. It was nearly 18 months into his service, when Conan faced the most harrowing experience of the war. Here's his first-hand account:

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