Can Video Relay Services (VRS) be used in place of Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services for live-streamed online courses?

VRS and VRI may provide similar services but their purposes are very different. VRS is governed by the FCC and is to ensure telecommunication, such as phone calls, are made accessible for deaf people. VRI is used as an option for providing interpreting services if an in-person interpreter is not available.

VRS should also not be used in lieu of VRI interpreters in live, online classes for the following reasons:

Consistency cannot be maintained. Every time a deaf individual places a call through VRS they get a different interpreter from anywhere in the country.

ASL has regional dialects and inconsistent specialized vocabulary, especially in academic subjects.

VRS interpreters do not have prior knowledge or advance preparation of course content and who is involved in discussions to identify speakers.

The burden is on the deaf student to manage communication because VRS interpreters do not have visual access to the online classroom and only rely on phone call audio.

Utilizing VRS for classes may cause longer queue times, especially deaf people trying to navigate the crisis and essential activities from home. There is no guarantee a VRS interpreter would even be available at the scheduled time of class.

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Updated on July 29, 2022

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