VRI (Video Remote Interpreting)

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is a cross between Video Relay Services (VRS) and a sign language interpreter onsite.

What is the difference between VRS and VRI?

VRS is paid for through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  Since the FCC is funded through tax dollars, VRS is forbidden to replace an onsite sign language interpreter.  VRS can be used for a Deaf consumer making a phone call.  But it cannot be used for people in the same location who need sign language interpreting services.  This is where Video Remote Interpreting is sometimes used.  Be careful to know when it is appropriate to use VRI vs. Onsite Sign Language Interpreter.

Difference: Onsite Interpreter or VRI

Video Remote Interpreting includes the same video conferencing equipment used in VRS and is identical in its processes.  The difference with VRI is that it is paid for by the private business or person requiring the sign language interpreting services.  Some of the perks are that you do not have to wait for a sign language interpreter to arrive onsite.  You are also able to pay by the minute (usually in packages).  Industry standard rates for an onsite sign language interpreter start with a two (2) hour minimum.  Sometimes they include charges for travel time (portal to portal) and/or mileage.  Saving time and money makes VRI appear more efficient.

What is VRI, video remote sign langauge interpretingChallenges of VRI


The challenges with VRI arise when it is not used effectively or appropriately.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that equal access must satisfy each individual’s needs.  Think of the functionality of video conferencing equipment.  Consider if you had to hold all of your conversations this way.  Lastly, consider if you had to use that equipment regardless of your condition.  It is great for quick and easy sign language interpreting service.  Longer more complicated situations, however, make it more costly.  It becomes less user friendly and may not necessarily satisfy the requirement of equal access under the ADA.  Some Deaf clients may still request an onsite sign language interpreter.

Certification and Licensure

Another challenge with VRI is when states require sign language interpreters be certified and licensed to work.  Those sign language interpreters must also be certified and licensed to provide these services in the state in which those services are rendered.  For example, if the Deaf client is in Missouri and the Video Remote Sign Language Interpreter is in California, that sign language interpreter must hold certification and licensure in the state of Missouri.

Out-of-State Interpreters

Having an out-of-state sign language interpreter can also pose challenges that we discussed in our blog about hiring a reputable sign language interpreting firm.  Sign language interpreters in another state are not familiar with the local dialect, which can make it time consuming and frustrating for the Deaf consumer.  Also, since VRI charges by the minute, if the services go over the expected time then the cost could actually be more than having an onsite interpreter.

In summary, Video Remote Interpreting can potentially work for some individual sign language interpreting needs.  But it does NOT replace the need or effectiveness of an onsite sign language interpreter.

Check out the video below for an example of first responders using VRI.



Photo Credit:


MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review