Thursday, July 31, 2008

Getting to Know… Videophones

Callers see an interpreter on their TV screen and sign a message to the interpreter, who then contacts the hearing recipient on a standard phone line and relays the conversation between the two parties.

Video Relay Services (or VRS) help the deaf to call hearing people. The customer dials a toll-free number and sees a picture of an interpreter on a home television screen. The operator contacts the desired hearing person and then serves as a go-between the two parties, signing to the deaf person and speaking to the hearing person, just as they would do in person. The service is free to the deaf because the cost is underwritten by the universal access surcharge that telephone users pay.

When video relay began in January 2002 only about 7200 minutes where used each month. That rose to more than 3 million minutes last year, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Large Companies offering Video Relay Service: Sprint, AT&T, Verizon/MCI, Hamilton and Sorenson

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