Some of you may have seen or even used video relay service. It’s been offered on a trial basis in California, and possible other states. Texas has now included video relay as a standard offering of their relay service. As far as I know, Texas is the first state to do so.
For those who don’t know, video relay uses video over the internet and replaces a “standard” relay operator with an interpreter. The deaf person and the interpreter sign to each other (in lieu of typing to each other on a TTY, as in a standard relay call). The interpreter and the hearing person communicate using voice, just as in a standard relay call.
The service is provided through a contractor called Communication Services for the Deaf (CSD), who already provides offsite interpreting over the internet. The offsite interpreting service is similar to the video relay service.
Most deaf people who are fluent signers prefer video relay to the standard TTY/voice relay. They point out that it is less cumbersome to use and much faster. In addition, many deaf people are more comfortable using American Sign Language (ASL) than English, and think that they are able to communicate more effectively in ASL.
In order to communicate with the relay center, the deaf person uses a program called Sorenson EnVision, which facilitates the two-way video communication. People in Texas can now get Sorenson EnVision instead of a TTY through the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP). Once so equipped, they are able to communicate using ASL with anyone who has the Sorenson EnVision system (and knows ASL).
Sorenson EnVision is produced by Sorenson Vision Inc. Their press release provides the following product description:
“Sorenson EnVision is a full-featured desktop collaboration system which allows people to see and hear each other as they work together over any IP connection. EnVision packs integrated document sharing and file transfer capabilities, as well as a built-in white board and chat box. EnVision is compliant with international standards for IP (H.323) conferencing, interoperating with other compliant products. The product operates on Windows 95, 98, and NT, and can be installed on computers from Pentium 90 and faster. EnVision 2.0, to be released in November, will add USB connectivity, modem-to-modem (H.324) calling, and Windows 2000/ME compatibility”.
For additional information, point your browser to http://www.SorensonEnVision.com.
Reader Response to Texas Video Relay Article
Editor: A couple of weeks ago, we published an article on the new Video Relay (VR) service being offered as a standard part of the Texas relay service. David Coco (firstname.lastname@example.org) was kind enough to send a note that clarifies and corrects some of the statements in that article. Here are excerpts from his email. (BTW, I had the pleasure of meeting David at the recent ALDACON in Santa Fe. He’s every bit as knowledgeable as his comments indicate.)
The Envision software is just one example of a software package that can be used with Texas Video Relay. Any software that meets the Texas Relay standards will work. (Ed: David later sent me an email from Ed Bosson of the Texas PUC. Ed’s email stated that the software can be either H.320 or H.323 compliant. H.320 is the standard for videoconferencing over ISDN lines, and H.323 is the standard for videoconferencing over the Internet.)
Also, I think North Carolina currently offers video relay, but only at public sites. Texas offers VR at any site that has the required software.
I have been encouraging the Video Relay providers to be sure that VR is accessible to hard of hearing and late-deafened people. I have used it as an oral interpreting tool (no signing – just reading lips) and it worked pretty well. I was able to follow for ten minutes with no problem.
However, the audio set up is not optimal for hard of hearing and late-deafened people who use their own voice. It would be better to talk directly to the person you are calling, but right now you have to talk to the interpreter, and the interpreter revoices your message to the party you are calling. This can be changed. That and a few other minor changes will optimize it for those who are hard of hearing or late deafened.