MARION — As the "Hub of the Universe" continues to expand, city officials in Marion have launched a new feature to assist with keeping communication between residents and the city coherent.
The two-month-old feature, known as Browesaloud, works to break language barriers and improve the way that residents and members from city departments communicate.
With the rapid growth of new citizens to the region, Marion IT Director Terence Henry said the new feature assists the city with making new residents feel more comfortable.
"The city of Marion is rapidly growing," he said. "And with the growth of new citizens, and everything else moving into the city, we are also slowly but surely having an increase of a diverse population of people, and some of those people may speak a broken English (so) we wanted to make sure that we are able to communicate."
Residents can access the feature on any city-owned webpage by clicking the orange circle and selecting from the options presented in the Browsealoud toolbar.
Once the toolbar is accessed, residents can select the "text" option, which will read the website to them or click on the globe to have the webpage translated into their a specific language.
Documents can also be saved as an MP3 file under the feature, Henry said.
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"There will either be a globe (to translate) or, if it is a document like our minutes or something of that nature, they can click on it and can save that (as an MP3) which will read that document to them later," he said.
In addition to the Browesaloud program, the city has teamed with Voiance, a language servicing company based in Arizona, to incorporate live video interpreters for a quick response to those who use sign language or lists English as their second language.
The collaboration with the company is a free service to residents in which the city pays no associated fees, Henry said.
"Voiance basically enhances our interpreters, so for each one of our departments, whether it is the library or the police department or City Hall, if one was to call that department (and there is a language barrier) we can transfer them over to speak with a live interpreter and that interpreter will gather their information and dictate that information over to us," he said.
Browesaloud is active via any city related website. Live interpreters will be incorporated by the end of October, Henry said.
He said these programs are in place because the city doesn't want residents to feel like "there is a barrier between us and them."
"So if there are questions or if there is anything that they need to ask then we should be able to address all of those needs in a timely manner."