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Definition[]

A Video Relay Service (VRS) is a form of telecommunications relay service (TRS) that allows individuals with a hearing disability to communicate with voice telephone users using sign language that is transmitted through video equipment connected to a broadband Internet connection.[1]

Overview[]

Video equipment links the VRS user with a TRS operator — called a "communications assistant" (CA) — so that the VRS user and the CA can see and communicate with each other in signed conversation. Because the conversation between the VRS user and the CA flows much more quickly than with a text-based TRS call, VRS has become an enormously popular form of TRS.

How VRS works[]

VRS, like other forms of TRS, allows persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to communicate through the telephone system with hearing persons. The VRS caller, using a television or a computer with a video camera device and a broadband Internet connection, contacts a VRS CA, who is a qualified sign language interpreter. They communicate with each other in sign language through a video link. The VRS CA then places a telephone call to the party the VRS user wishes to call. The VRS CA relays the conversation back and forth between the parties — in sign language with the VRS user, and by voice with the called party. No typing or text is involved. A voice telephone user can also initiate a VRS call by calling a VRS center, usually through a toll-free number.

The VRS CA can be reached through the VRS provider's Internet site, or through video equipment attached to a television. Currently, around ten providers offer VRS. Like all TRS calls, VRS is free to the caller. VRS providers are compensated for their costs from the Interstate TRS Fund, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversees.

References[]

  1. See 47 C.F.R. 64.601(a)(26); see generally 47 C.F.R. 64.601 et seq.
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