Entrepreneur follows heart with sign language interpretation business
Americas, August 30 2016
INDIANAPOLIS: Armed with an ASL/English interpreting degree and a passion for sign language that goes back to her youth, a former Purdue University student is creating a business to interpret pre-recorded content into sign language for students who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Jessica Robinson is the founder and CEO of TERP2GO LLC, an Indianapolis-based company that takes customer provided pre-recorded classroom-based audiovisual content, interprets the material to sign language, then returns the content complete with translation to the customer. She earned her degree through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in 2007.
“There may be other interpreting agencies that can provide video remote interpreting, but not many of them are providing those services in higher education for online content,” Robinson said. “The novel piece to my business is interpreting the pre-recorded content such as voice-over lectures that aren’t live.”
Robinson became interested in sign language while attending church during her youth. A woman who is deaf was part of the congregation, she said. The pastor’s wife interpreted for her.
“I wanted to learn sign language to be able to talk to her,” Robinson said.
Lessons from the pastor’s wife and the deaf woman carried over to her freshman year at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, where she took a placement test to get into an American Sign Language class, which had a waiting list. Because of her experience, the department placed her in a third-year class during her freshman year, she said.
At that point sign language was a hobby for the theatre/acting major. But after taking some time off school for personal reasons and moving to Indianapolis, she experienced a life-changing moment, she said.
“During the Sunday church service before I had planned to go back to Purdue to finish my studies, the pastor had asked me out of nowhere if I knew sign language and if I would consider interpreting the church services for when a deaf person came,” she said. “I took this as a sign.”
She decided not to return to West Lafayette, to take the pastor up on the offer, and to enroll at IUPUI to seek an ASL/English interpreting degree.
After graduating Robinson took a job as an interpreter for deaf and hard of hearing students at IUPUI. She also worked part-time doing video relay interpreting.
A couple of years ago while she was in prayer, Robinson had an experience. “God led me to stop doing what I was doing at the moment and write down what he gave me to write down,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about work at the time. But as I started to write, it was my business idea.”
She took her idea to her supervisor, who encouraged Robinson to pursue it. Then she learned about the Purdue Foundry.
“I asked my boss’ permission to attend, and I got hooked up with them and went through the six-week course they offer,” she said. “They took me from saying, ‘This is a great idea and you have to take my word for it’ to being able to think about how to validate the need and to explain it in a professional manner.”
In December 2015, the married mother of two boys left IUPUI to focus solely on TERP2GO.
Robinson has a patent pending for her business and is working on developing a platform or software for her services. She’s also looking for investors.
More information about TERP2GO can be found at www.terp2go.com