Video remote interpreting is one of the greatest advances in technology for deaf people or people with a hearing impairment. Of all the sign language interpreting services available the cost and availability of video remote interpreting (VRI) make it one of the most attractive. With VRI businesses, hospitals, schools, clinics, and government agencies all have on demand access to an interpreter service which will help facilitate communication with a deaf person. While the use of video remote interpreting will increase, such widespread use of a video interpreter is not without its critics both in the general public and in the deaf world.
Benefits of VRI
The ability to harness technology to improve lives has long been a common goal. VRI achieves this goal remarkably well. Many deaf people live in a world of isolation and find it difficult to do even the simplest tasks that the hearing world takes for granted. The deaf truly have their own language and a great ability to communicate, but without interpreters or sign language services available to them then the words cannot be conveyed properly.
One of the biggest benefits of video remote interpreting is the instant access. Imagine a deaf person brought to a local hospital emergency room. The need to gain information from that person is crucial. If an interpreter is not on staff and there is no sign language interpreting services in the area, then valuable time is wasted for a sign language interpreter to arrive from another community. The results of this could be fatal. With VRI, the patient and hospital staff can communicate via webcam to an off-site interpreter service and communicate quickly and effectively. The doctor can speak in a phone or computer microphone and the video interpreter instantly relays the visual translation to the deaf patient. The patient can then relay signs to the interpreter who speaks aloud for the doctor. This way vital information is quickly gathered and directly from the patient without having to accept a third party's "facts" about the health history of the patient.
The cost savings of using a video remote interpreting service is also a big benefit. Many agencies cannot afford to have an interpreter on site. If there is no sign language agency in the local community, the cost to bring in an outside interpreter is substantial. With just a few uses of a VRI service, a hospital or agency could save hundreds of dollars.
Ease of use and cost of setup are two more benefits to an agency. The equipment needed for this service is minimal-generally a computer with a webcam and broadband service. Setup is easy and may only require some downloadable software. Multiple computers can be setup to access the same VRI agency for reasons of privacy or comfort.
Downsides to VRI
For all the great benefits to the deaf community that video remote interpreting provides, there are a handful of negatives. Some deaf people are not comfortable relaying sensitive personal and medical information to an outside video remote interpreter. The doctor-patient confidentially agreement is sacred and establishing the same trust and privacy concerns will be an ongoing issue. Other concerns involve the ease of use for a hearing impaired person. A person with a serious injury or intense pain may not have the ability to face a computer and sign well or have the ability to see a computer monitor and see the communication being relayed due to body position or pain. For now, the general attitude for many small facilities is that VRI is better than nothing. Like any new technology for deaf people, the widespread use of this technology is sure to grow.
The future looks strong for video remote interpreting services. Improved technology for deaf people has opened up new worlds with everything from deaf chat rooms to online deaf communities to VRI making the world more accessible. Many proponents of VRI point to the widespread use of iPods and agree that today's generation may end up later in life with a substantial hearing impairment because of them. Cutting edge sign language interpreting services will continue to provide video remote interpreting as long as there is a need. This need should continue to be strong!