What is Video Relay Service (VRS)?

It's a way for Deaf people to call hearing people via a video sign language interpreter.

Karina Pedersen avatar
Written by Karina Pedersen
Updated over a week ago

Video Relay Service (VRS) connects Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals with hearing telephone callers through a sign language interpreter, video equipment, and a high-speed internet connection.

With VRS, Deaf and Hard of Hearing callers can have conversations in real-time, in a more natural flow than text-based Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS).

Like all TRS calls, VRS is free to the caller. VRS providers are compensated for their costs from the Interstate TRS Fund, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversees.

To download a PDF on VRS and how it works, click here.

Did you know?

There are five VRS providers in the U.S. and Convo is the only Deaf-owned VRS company! 

Learn more about what else makes us awesome here

How does VRS work, exactly? 

There are three parties involved: 

  • The Deaf/HoH individual(s) 

  • The VRS interpreter

  • The hearing individual(s) 

The Deaf/HoH caller uses a device with a video camera and a broadband (high speed) internet connection to make and receive calls from hearing people. They will connect with a VRS interpreter, who is a qualified sign language interpreter, while the hearing caller will be on the other end of the line. The VRS interpreter relays the conversation back and forth between the two parties—in sign language with the Deaf/HoH caller, and by voice with the hearing caller. No typing or text is necessarily involved, although some VRS platforms do have the option for the Deaf/HoH caller to type notes to the interpreter. While the VRS interpreter is essentially a "middle person" in VRS calls, the messages are determined by the Deaf/HoH caller and hearing caller and may not be altered by the interpreter.

Wait, what is TRS?

Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) is a service provided by the FCC that allows persons with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive telephone calls. VRS is one form of TRS provided. TRS is available in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories for local and/or long-distance calls.

To learn more about TRS from the FCC, click here.

Did this answer your question?