With the national shortage of qualified and certified American Sign Language interpreters, many companies are starting to look at sign language video remote interpreting solutions to fill the need. Video remote interpreting or VRI as it is commonly referred to, is not always the best solution for providing language access to deaf individuals, but it is growing in popularity and the quality of these services have certainly raised in the past few years.
Deaf consumers are warming up to the idea of accessing professional interpreters via video now that the video streams are much clearer and that they can be accessed almost immediately in many cases. When interpreting services are not scheduled for an appointment, services like this can save the day and get a certified interpreter on site in a matter of minutes.
When Is A VRI A Good Fit For Deaf Consumer?
The best way to find out if a VRI session is a good fit for any given setting is to ask the agency or the deaf consumer. Both will have slightly different input, but this should give you a very good understanding of what works and what does not. Usually video remote interpreting is used for more casual and simple encounters. If there is paperwork involved, a live interpreter is always better. If there are complicated terminology that may require a lot of clarification, again a face to face interpreter is preferred. Simple office visits, one on one business meetings and other casual and controlled settings are where VRI really shines.
Sign Language Video Remote Software
Depending on which VRI agency you choose to work with, there are many different apps, software and API’s that may be used to create the video and audio connection needed for a successful video remote interpreting session. Depending on your needs there are benefits to each. Some companies offer apps in the app store, which seems counter intuitive. You certainly do not want to use a screen as small as a mobile phone for interpreting. Some have software that has to be installed on every computer that will be taking advantage of the ASL VRI connections. The companies that offer cloud based video remote interpreting services seem to the easiest to implement. These video remote sessions simply run inside of a browser window and do not require any installation at all. This is a huge benefit for larger organizations who may be working from computers with security policies applied, so they do not have access to install third party software.
Are Sign Language Video Remote Interpreting Services Compliant?
That is a great question, what about the ADA laws? What about HIPAA? The Registry for Interpreter of the Deaf, The National Association for the Deaf as well as American’s with Disabilities Act specialists have all agreed that this is a valid reasonable line of communication to offer deaf individuals. Now, this does not mean for every situation. There are plenty of times where you really should provide an in person interpreter. If you are not sure, just ask. Deaf individuals will let you know if it will work for them. If you have a deaf patient, employee or customer with low vision, you should not consider VRI and always provide live ASL interpreters on site!
There are many nationwide ASL services that now offer a version of video remote interpreting to their customers for convenience. This is a valuable solution in many cases, but it is usually a good idea to work with a company that actually has a working relationship with the interpreters in your area. Some of these companies have never even met the interpreters that they will be providing to you. This is not always a problem, but it can make it hard to find an interpreter that is a good fit for certain settings or special needs of different deaf consumers. National ASL services usually offer a convenience of having interpreters that can service clients across the country, but they do not always have the best service because of this.
National ASL Services & VRI
Do ASL Interpreters On Video Need A State License
One of the biggest problems with some of these services is that they usually do not keep track of state and other local requirements. They simply look at the national certifications that are required for American Sign Language interpreters to work in the community. However, there are many states that now do require a state licence to work in their state legally. This is also true of video remote interpreters even if they are operating from another state in some areas.
How Do Video Remote Interpreting Agencies Evaluate Interpreters?
This is a great question and certainly one you should ask any company before you choose to move forward with their VRI ASL services. It is very important to evaluate an interpreters performance and their setup when we are talking about nationwide ASL services. Even if the sign language interpreters they employ are great, that does not make a difference if they have a low resolution video camera, choppy internet connection or distracting backgrounds in their VRI station. Evaluating each interpreter is the only way to assure a high quality of service to each deaf individual.
Sign Language Video Remote Interpreting Customer Service
This is a big part of the service. National VRI and ASL companies are known to be hard to deal with and always in a hurry because they have to get to that next call. When your goal is to provide an exceptional service for deaf individual, you must take your time and understand all the small things about the setting and individual to be able to make sure the VRI session goes off with no hitches. Make sure you find a great ASL VRI company that can help you help them understand your needs, before they try to meet them.
How To Pick A Remarkable Nationwide ASL Service
You must do some research to assure that you are picking a great provider. National ASL VRI services are easy to find online, there are many out there. We think you should interact with more than one before you choose who to do business with. Can you get an email response fast? If you call them are they friendly and willing to take time to understand your needs? Can they explain how you can easily setup their service on a tablet or laptop in your office? Do they abide by state interpreting license laws?
If you ask these questions and look around, you will be sure to find a great video remote interpreting company that can help you provide a reasonable line of communication to dear employees and customers at your office.
Many deaf people do not like video remote interpreting for complicated medical visits or emergency room communication. This is understandable. Many times things move so fast in the ER, it can be hard to keep the video screen in a good area so that the interpreter and the deaf individual are able to easily communicate. Some medical appointments are more involved and can take a lot of adjusting to manipulate the position of the screen that the interpreter is being displayed on. However, there are some medical appointments that this is a great option for the deaf patient, especially if you are having a hard time finding available ASL interpreters in your area.
The best way to tell if choosing VRI or an in person ASL interpreter is a good fit, is to simply ask the deaf consumer which they would prefer you to schedule before appointment time. This of course cannot be done in emergency situations, but after getting feedback from deaf individuals you should be able to get a good idea of what types of appointments deaf consumers are comfortable with using a digital solution apposed to an in person interpreter. The American Disabilities Act states that deaf or hard of hearing people are entitled to a reasonable line of communication. This can be very different for different people and taking the time to understand each individuals needs is paramount.
Most medical offices and hospitals that serve those in the deaf community utilize a mixture of ASL VRI and in person ASL interpretation to accommodate all of their patients needs. Just because VRI is a cheaper solution in some cases, does not mean that it is a viable solution. If the medical office does not have access to a reliable and fast internet connection, Video Remote Interpreting will not be a good fit. Choosing to use cell phones is another unacceptable way to utilize these services. However, with the proper setup and communication with patients, using interpreters provided over the internet can offer many different benefits to hearing employees and deaf patients alike.
There is no doubt that many people that have special needs often find it hard to get the accommodations that they need in certain public places. However, in a work environment this should be much easier to receive the equipment or services you need as they assist an individual in completing the tasks and assignments that have been set forth by the employer. Unfortunately, still there is a barrier in getting the necessary accommodations for many. Every individual has different needs to be able to perform well and wheelchair ramps and a comfortable chair, is not where these accommodations should stop.
If an employer expects an employee to be productive, it is in the best interest of everybody involved to promote a happy, safe and healthy work environment. Many times this means something extra for a small portion of the employees. This can mean a special floor mat that absorbs shock in a factory environment or an interpreter occasionally for a deaf or hard of hearing employee. There are many regulations for safety accommodations and most employers abide by these rules by the book to the T. However, many times the same employers overlook ADA laws that require companies to provide a clear line of communication for those who are deaf. This is a reasonable accommodation and in most cases is required by law.
The outcome is the same, if you avoid the law, your company could be sued, but many times the penalty for overlooking these types of accommodations are more subtle. The employee may not understand certain topics covered in meetings, they may not be able to be as productive as they otherwise would be or they may not be privy to very important safety instructions. The result of not allowing an individual the right to an interpreter can be very negative and counter productive. Communication is the root of all teamwork and if your office is not allowing a clear line of communication for any reason, this can back fire fast.
The costs of these services should not not be looked at as a unnecessary expense, they should be viewed as a solid investment in the employees future with your company. If productivity, safety and a forward movement in progress are important to your office, these accommodations should be met with a smile. The outcomes will certainly be fruitful for the employee and your organization as well. When employees feel that they have all the tools they need to accomplish their tasks, this can also make for a much happier and more friendly work environment.
If your company is trying to find services that can help them provide sign language interpreting services easier then ever, it may be beneficial to look into video remote interpreting services. When you use a VRI sign language agency, you get much more flexibility when it comes to getting ASL services in your office or place of work. Many companies have also found these services to be the most cost effective to fill the need.
No matter how good a sign language interpreter is, if they are on a video and it is tiny or poor quality, they cannot assist in the way they can when they are unhindered. Many times deaf consumer think that VRI is a bad service solely because they have had a bad experience caused by hardware that is not up to par. If your business takes advantage of VRI interpreting services to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing individuals, you must assure that your tablet or computer is up to snuff.
There are many different standards that are suggested by video remote interpreting companies. Each has their own specifications and they vary rather widely. If you are working with a VRI company currently, it is probably best to adhere to their own setup requirements. Depending on which application is being used to stream the video, this can change. Some video remote sign language services utilize dedicated applications, while others leverage web apps that run inside a web browser window, so there is nothing to install. Depending which way a companies streaming video interpreting service utilizes, there can be a big difference in hardware needs.
VRI Hardware Requirements Checklist
There are some national standards set forth by deaf advocacy groups that should be the baseline across the board. The requirements listed below are simply a culmination of the highest quality standards that are set for by a variety of sources to assure that the quality is at its best when you need to utilize a remote sign language interpreter.
- 17” Monitors or larger are highly suggested
- Screen Resolution 1920 x 1080 and above is preferred for HD video
- Computer with a dedicated video card.
- Onboard video cards are not suggested.
- Late model Intel core processor I5 and I7 preferred
- 8 GB+ of Ram preferred
- Hard Drive 500GB+
- Must have at least 5gb of free space for windows swap file while streaming live video.
- Computer should only be utilized for the VRI while video session is live.
- Hardwired Ethernet internet connection. WiFi can work, but does have more lag is the signal is weak.
Other Possible Options
If there is a dire need and the requirements above simply cannot be met, these are some other options that may be able to provide a reasonable quality of service in a pinch. Again, these are not suggested, but they can offer a way to communicate while your business is working on setting up the needed hardware for future usage.
- 5th Gen iPads or most models of iPad pro can be effective, the screen size can be limiting.
- Laptops with large screens can be used, but very rarely do they have dedicated video cards and many times the on board cameras are not very good.
- Wireless connectivity is generally slower and has more lag time than Ethernet connections. Many mobile devices can only connect to WiFi and this can become a bottleneck in the quality of VRI services, so they should be avoided if possible.
- Cell phones are never a good solution. They are simply too small and do not provide an acceptable accommodation to the deaf and hard of hearing individual.
We hope this checklist helps you find out what area can be improved at your place of business to provide real functional accessibility to deaf employees or deaf patrons of your business. It is important to ask the deaf individual if the current mode of communication is working well for them. Communication is a two way road and if you ask you may find out other simple changes that could be made to make for an even more effected environment in which to communicate with others.