Common FAQ about Mobile Video Relay Services

  • May 20, 2011
  • |
  • publicrelationsdept

Technology has transformed cell phones from simple devices that make calls to complex gadgets that can do just about anything. One of the greatest innovations to the cell phone for a deaf or hard-of-hearing person has been the introduction of a front-facing camera, which allows the user to view the display screen and the camera at the same time. This now common feature led to the creation of mobile video relay services, first introduced in June 2010 when ZVRS announced VRS support on the new iPhone.

How does Video Relay Service (VRS) work?
VRS allows deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to have telephone conversations with hearing people. Mobile VRS allows users with a videophone and real-time video connection to connect with an interpreter who “relays” the conversation between the two parties. The interpreter voices what the deaf person is signing to the hearing caller and translates the spoken words into American Sign Language (ASL) for the deaf/hard-of-hearing caller to see on screen.

What are the pros and cons of mobile VRS?
Pros:

  • Some providers have good, clear video, even in 3G
  • Most apps have flash and vibrating alerts for incoming calls
  • Some providers have easy dialing on Google
  • Mobility = Freedom (to do errands and such, not be stuck near home/office video phone)
  • Save time communicating in ASL compared to lengthy or complicated texting or email

Cons:

  • Some providers’ address books do not sync properly
  • Some providers drain battery faster than others
  • Some providers use too many phone #’s  for each device
  • Some providers are not interoperable (point to point calls) with different providers
  • Some providers have limited data plans

What should I consider when getting a new cell phone?
There are a few things to take into consideration when thinking about getting a new cell phone to use for mobile VRS. The phone should include:

  • A front-facing camera
  • A fast processor
  • High-speed internet such as 4G and Wifi, but 3G is ok

Once you have found your phone or phone choices, double check to see if a mobile VRS service supports your choices.

Where can I see a demonstration for mobile VRS?
You can view two different videos on mobile VRS here:

What mobile VRS providers are available?
There are several providers that have mobile VRS available, including:

  • Sprint Relay
  • Sorenson
  • ZVRS
  • Convo Relay
  • Purple Communications
  • AT&T
  • Mainstream VRS

What applications are available to use?
There are many applications that can be downloaded onto your cell phone. A few of these include:

VRS service providers are realizing that mobile VRS will be a big part of our future. It is our hope that because technology is constantly evolving, the deaf and hard-of-hearing community will be able to greatly benefit from these innovations.

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