- What is Deaf VRS, and how does it work?
- How is the VRS call paid for?
- Where can a Deaf person call using VRS as a Free Service?
- Are Global’s VRS calls kept confidential?
- Can I Port My 10-Digit Number?
- Can a Hearing Person place a free VRS call?
- Where did VRS Start?
- What are the United States Regulations for VRS?
Q: What is Deaf VRS, and how does it work?
- An individual who communicates by American Sign Language, or another mode of manual communication, such as Signing Exact English, contact signing (Pidgin Signed English), Cued Speech, or Linguistics of Visual English, uses a videophone or other video relay device, such as a webcam, to connect via broadband Internet to a deaf Video Relay Service.
- The caller is routed to a sign language interpreter, known as a Video Interpreter (VI). The VI is in front of a camera or videophone.
- The video user gives the VI a voice number to dial, as well as any special dialing instructions.
- The VI places the call and interprets as a neutral, non-participating third party. Anything that the audio user says is signed to the video user, and anything signed by the video user is spoken to the audio user.
- Once the call is over, the caller can make another call(s) or hang up with the video relay service interpreter.
Hearing people can contact a Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, or Speech-Disabled person via deaf VRS. To initiate a call, the hearing person calls the VRS, and is connected to a video interpreter who then contacts the video user.
Q: How is the VRS call paid for?
A: Funding for VRS is provided via the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Fund, which was created by the FCC, originally to fund TRS services. Funding for the TRS comes from a tax on the revenue from all telecommunications companies operating in the US. The tax on revenue is set by the FCC yearly and has been steadily increasing as the amount of VRS minutes continues to climb. For 2007 the tax is 7.2/100ths of a penny per dollar of revenue, up from 3.8/100th of a penny in 2000. The current revenue tax of .0072 is expected to generate $553 million against telecommunications industry revenue of $76.8 billion. The fund is managed by National Exchange Carriers Association (NECA), which also administers the much larger Universal Service Fund.
In addition to regulating the funding of VRS, the FCC regulates the standards that VRS companies and their employees must follow in handling calls. These regulations ensure that deaf VRS calls are handled appropriately and ethically.
The FCC issued rulings include:
- The time it takes an interpreter to answer an incoming VRS call. As of July 1, 2006, VRS providers must answer 80% of calls within two and a half minutes. Starting on January 1, 2007, VRS providers must answer 80% of calls within two minutes.
- As of January 1, 2006, all VRS providers are required to provide service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Reimbursement of VRS Video Mail. If a Hearing person calls a sign language user, but there is no answer, the VI signs a message and delivers it to the sign language user’s e-mail, similar to an answering machine. Previously this service was not reimbursed and the cost was absorbed by the VRS provider.
- VRS providers are not permitted to “call back” when a customer hangs up before a VRS call is placed.
Q: Where can a Deaf person call using VRS as a Free Service?
A: A deaf person can use vrs services to call anywhere the VI (Video Interpreter) can dial – as long as the call originates in the United States or terminates in the United States of America.
Q: Are Global’s VRS calls kept confidential?
A: Global VRS calls are never recorded and the call content is kept confidential. All Global VRS interpreters strictly adhere to the Communications Caller Confidentially Policy. VRS interpreters are dedicated professionals who provide the highest quality deaf video relay services in the industry for English, Spanish, and trilingual sign language interpreting.
Q: Can I Port My 10-Digit Number?
A: The local number you receive from Global VRS can be “ported” to another VRS provider. In addition, you can “port” a local number from another VRS provider to Global VRS. Porting numbers means that the default provider for that telephone number will change and the new VRS provider will be responsible for VRS calls to and from that telephone number, including emergency calls. When you are considering porting a number to Global VRS, please contact our customer service department and we will assist you.
Q: Can a Hearing Person place a free VRS call?
A: Yes, a hearing person can place a free VRS call as long as the Deaf person receives the call within the United States of America. Any hearing person who wants to place a call for an on-site video remote interpreting session would be under terms of VRI, and would need to call (877) 326-3877.
Q: Where did VRS Start?
A: History of VRS:
Building support for trials
Ed Bosson of the Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) envisioned Deaf people communicating with videophones more than 10 years before the FCC mandated it nationwide. Ed contacted Mark Seeger of Sprint Relay and discussed the possibilities. Mark contacted Sprint technicians to see if Ed’s vision was feasible. They reported that it was, so Ed brought the idea to the Texas PUC.
It took Ed a long time to be able to convince the PUC and get some help from a lawyer in interpreting. First, Ed convinced his supervisor and then one-by-one, the Commissioners, that deaf video relay should become a part of statewide Telecom Relay Service offerings. They authorized Ed to manage the first video relay service trials. Sprint was the first video relay services provider to conduct the Texas video relay tests. Bosson would later receive national awards from Smithsonian Computerworld and TDI for his work with VRS.
In 1995, the first trial was run by Sprint in Austin and was limited to four public call centers.
The second trial occurred in 1997 and served ten cities in Texas. At that point, Sprint and Hanwave Interpreting partnered to provide service. Jon Hodson worked with Ed Bosson during the early stages and provided video conferencing software during the VRS trial in Texas. (At this point the service was called “Video Relay Interpreting” or VRI, which a name that now refers to Video Remote Interpreting. Linda Nelson is credited with changing the term from VRI to VRS.)
In 2002, Washington and Texas tested a web based VRS statewide, with CSDVRS providing VRS services via the Internet to Washington state.
In 2000, VRS officially became available throughout the state of Texas. In 2002, the FCC allowed for the reimbursement of interstate video relay service providers via the interstate TRS fund administration, becoming the second country after Sweden to federally subsidize VRS nationwide.
Q: What are the United States Regulations for VRS Providers?
A: VRS regulation in the United States:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the regulatory body for video relay services in the United States. In addition to overseeing deaf VRS, the FCC also oversees Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS), from which the VRS regulatory framework has evolved. The FCC oversees TRS and VRS as a result of their mandate in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to facilitate the provisions equal access to individuals with disabilities over the telephone network.