skip to content
Primary navigation

Video relay service and video remote interpreting

Video interpreting is a recent addition to sign language interpreting through innovative technology using video conference equipment and broadband Internet access. The following information describes two services that are now available through local and national vendors.

Video Relay Service (VRS)

VRS is a form of telecommunication relay service that involves a TV with a videophone, a mobile wireless device/computer with a web camera and high-speed Internet. A person who is deaf or hard of hearing and uses sign language to communicate can use this technology to call a hearing party who uses a standard phone.

The caller signs to the interpreter on the screen who in turn, voices to the hearing party. The interpreter signs back to the caller what the hearing person says. Communication between the two parties is almost simultaneous and this "visual" form of communication is valued by many people who rely on sign language to communicate. A voice telephone user can also initiate a VRS call by calling a toll-free or direct number of the person being called. Vendors for VRS provide free video phones to qualified persons.


  • Used for communication between a signing and non-signing party via the telephone
  • Service provided for two parties in separate locations
  • Is a subsidized program funded by the FCC; free for all callers
  • Only the signing party is visible to the VRS interpreter
  • All three parties are in separate locations.

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)

VRI uses video conferencing equipment or a television to allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to communicate with people who are hearing at the same location through an interpreter. The interpreter is not physically present but is available via the video equipment. There is a fee for this service. VRI is a convenient resource for parties in need of interpreter services when or where an interpreter is not available to be present on site. Vendors for VRI provide video equipment for vendor purchase.


  • Used for communication between a signing and non-signing party in a face-to-face meeting
  • Service provided for two or more parties in the same location
  • Charges a fee for service, much like a freelance interpreter
  • Interpreter is in a separate location than the other parties
  • Both parties are typically visible to the VRS interpreter, and vice versa.
back to top