Thanks to advances in video technology, American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation services are more accessible than ever. Today, deaf individuals and the organizations that serve them can connect with an interpreter remotely instead of working with someone onsite. This not only makes it easier for ASL users to communicate—no matter where they are—but also reduces wait times and interpreting costs. And although connecting with a remote ASL interpreter has never been easier, it’s important to understand the difference between the two services available: VRS and VRI.
What Is VRS?
Video Relay Service (VRS) allows someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to communicate with a hearing person via telephone. The VRS caller uses a television or computer with a camera and an internet connection to contact an interpreter. They communicate in ASL through a video link. The interpreter then places a telephone call to the person the ASL user wishes to call. The interpreter relays the conversation in ASL with the VRS user and by voice with the hearing party. When a hearing person calls a deaf person, the call is also routed via VRS.
This service is available 24/7, and is free for the ASL user and the hearing person on the call. It’s paid for by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
What Is VRI?
Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) allows someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to communicate using video conferencing technology. The ASL user can make calls from a remote location or access an interpreter remotely while they’re onsite. For example, a deaf person can have a telemedicine appointment with a doctor using VRI. Or they can use VRI onsite at a medical facility when no ASL interpreters are available.
VRI calls can be made on-demand or scheduled in advance. Some language service providers offer 24/7 service. Like onsite interpreting, interpreters charge per minute, and the organizations that hire them pay the costs.
Advantages of VRI
Although both services fulfill communication-related mandates under the ADA, VRI does have a couple of advantages over VRS.
As we noted above, you can use VRI whether the deaf and hearing individuals are in the same room or all three parties are in separate locations. VRS, by FCC regulation, can’t provide free interpreting services when the two parties wishing to communicate are in the same room.
The other advantage is that VRI allows all three parties to see each other. This is important because ASL includes facial expressions and body language that can change the meaning of what someone is saying. VRI better replicates the onsite interpreting experience, which reduces the possibility of miscommunication.
VRI and Boostlingo
With the Boostlingo platform, you can connect with a remote ASL interpreter on-demand. Our ASL/24 Service makes it easy to assist deaf and hard of hearing individuals in healthcare, legal, and numerous other settings, even after hours. All you need is a high-speed internet connection and a computer or web cam to get started.
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