What is Video Relay Services (VRS)?

What is Video Relay Services (VRS)?

VRS is a video communication services for the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate with their videophones via live certified interpreters.  It is a free service to the deaf and hard of hearing. Sweden was the first country in the world to establish the VRS in 1997. In 2002, Sorenson VRS created the vp-100 videophones. The USA became the second country to established VRS in 2003. Five years later in 2007, Sorenson VRS developed a vp-200 for improvement on new features than vp-100.

Deaf and hard of hearing in USA don’t need to pay local, long distance, & international calls thru VRS. They will need to pay their local internet provider to able to use VRS. Home and Business videophones are connected ethernet cords to the internet modem and plug wall. There are many different kinds of videophones products from different VRS companies. Below are some example for VRS companies:

Convo Relay

Purple VRS

Sorenson VRS

IWRelay VRS

ZVRS

Telecommunication device for the deaf (TTD or TTY) is an electronic equipment connected to the phone line that has telephone headsets and keywords. It was invented by Robert Weitbrechtin in 1964. Deaf and hard of hearing are able to type messages to the Telecommunication Relay Services (TRS) to communicate with their third party calls or communicate two way street by TTY to TTY. More info about TTY at http://tap.gallaudet.edu/Text/TTYBasics.asp
 
Today, deaf and hard of hearing use their mobile videophones. It is high demanding technology in which they don’t need to depend on their home videophones. They can use their wireless devices signals by 3G, 4G, and WiFi. When there is a weak signal, mobile videophones will not be able to work. Mobile video mail messages are allowing hearing people to leave messages to the deaf or hard of hearing. They can make point to point videophone calls to communicate with their families, friends, and co-workers. Special thanks for the engineers became successful for the deaf technology.

What is Deaf Culture?

Deaf Culture: Deaf and hard of hearing people are a socially active group who use their sign language. For example: They can participate in entertainment, sports, travel, worship, and deaf events. ASL students and interpreters are also part of this group that supports the Deaf Community. There are different kind of deaf events around the world such as open-caption movies, deaf clubs, local deaf community events, and etc. ASL is the 3rd most popular language used in the USA. There are over 200 sign languages used around the world today according to info from Wikipedia.
      For example if you attend a party with hearing and deaf people. How can you get a deaf people’s attention? The best way to flip the light switch off and on to get their attention. When you see a group of deaf having a conversation, it is best to sign “excuse me” & move out of the way or join the conversation. What about signing from far away? Deaf & hard of hearing use facial expressions to show something is far away. When you see interpreter services at the front row, please don’t walk back and forth in front of them that is consider rude because deaf and hard of hearing don’t want to miss any details when a interpreter interpret at present. It is best way to move out of other way to show polite and not interrupt to them.
      Currently, the Deaf Community doesn’t accept the term hearing-impaired or deaf-mute because it is inappropriate that they will feel defensive and hurt. The bible used term “mute” in the old days. Today they preferred to be called deaf or hard of hearing. Deafness means partially or wholly lacking or deprived of the sense of hearing; unable to hear. Most culturally deaf don’t wear behind the ear aids but many hard of hearing people do. Hard of hearing people do have partial hearing, but they wear aids or have other devices allowing them to hear sounds clearly. They are able to lip read and watch facial expressions to assist in their understanding of the speaker.
      According to a Department of Health and Human Services survey which stated the percentage of deaf children born in a hearing family is 93%, 7% of deaf children are born in deaf family, more than 112,000 people have cochlear implants in worldwide and 30% of the english language is visible for lip-reading.
      Anyone who is new to the Deaf Community is encouraged to study about Deaf Culture online. Most sign language students feel awkward and have inexperiences how to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing people at the deaf events. Best way is to be active, ask questions, and let the deaf and hard of hearing know that you are learning sign language. It is important to be sensitive and show respect to the Deaf Community. Deaf & hard of hearing use facial expressions and body language to communicate as part of the grammar of ASL. It is best for ASL students to learn and improve their receptive skills by attending deaf events.
      Check out the link for more info at http://www.start-american-sign-language.com/deaf-culture.html.

Leslie Chavarria

For many years God was a foreign concept for Leslie Chavarria. She knew God was good, and that Jesus was real, but she never had a true deep understanding of God’s love for us. Leslie lived for herself, whatever felt good she believed was right. At a young age she had no control of her emotions, constantly getting into fights. She did whatever she could do to ensure her own happiness before any one else’s. For a few years, she was fooled into believing her way of life was correct. Meanwhile, her uncle Cesar Lopez, baptized in 1993, constantly reached out to the entire family. Facing nothing but rejections, he continued to pray for them all. Leslie’s mother had gone to a few services, forcing Leslie and her twin brother, Chris, along. Leslie and Chris caused a lot of trouble with the other children. Embarrassed, their mother decided to stop going to church. Leslie continued on in middle school, getting good grades, acting good in front of her parents, but along, she was a completely different person at school.
 
Freshman year in high school, on a Sunday morning, Chris woke Leslie up, very excited. He told her “Let’s go to church!” Leslie was very tired and cursed at him, expressing that she did not wish to go to church. So Chris went with their mother. They came back from service laughing and cracking jokes. Apparently, there was a hilarious punch line said in the sermon that morning and they were repeating it the rest of the day. Leslie, feeling out of the loop, was very annoyed and asked them what it meant. Every time she’d asked, however, they’d say “You had to be there.” So she decided to go the next Sunday. Til this day Leslie remembers how moved and inspired she felt during the worship. She has always connected to music, and that day it cut her straight to her heart.
 
Out of habit, Leslie continued living a double life. When Leslie was a sophomore, she got caught in multiple lies, causing her to lose her family’s trust. It was the first time she’s ever felt truly alone. Leslie understood at that she needed to change, but she couldn’t, for the life of her, figure out how. That Sunday, she went to church, hiding any sorrow she felt. After service, Leslie was talking to a friend who had been studying the Bible. Jokingly, her friend asked when she was going to finally start studying the Bible. At that point, it began clear. This was it! Those were the roughest yet best two years of her life. Leslie was baptized in March 7, 2010.
 
Leslie is, now, 19 years old. She is studying Deaf Studies at CA State University of Northridge. She has a strong passion for ASL ever since she’s been introduced to it in middle school. Leslie interpreted for a few midweek, devotional services and Campus Retreat since her freshman year of college. Helen Quiroz is her trainer for interpreting. Leslie’s biggest challenge with interpreting is ASL structure because in English we tend to use a lot of passive voice, whereas ASL uses active voice. Leslie’s best memory in the Deaf Ministry is appreciated disciples welcomed her instantly and have always encouraged her to continue to get involved in their ministry. She believes that God has big plans for her in the Deaf Ministry and is willing to whatever she has to in order to never go back to her old life.

ASL Interpreters for our Deaf Ministry — Where will they come from?

To start a Deaf Ministry, God is the provider for all needs and maker of connections.

Deaf Christians, like all Christians, need and seek a close relationship with God, spiritual friendships that lead to maturity in Christ and ways to serve using their gifts given by God. These relationships and activities all require communication.

As for interpreters … with them, there can be Deaf members (who are users of American Sign Language (ASL) in the church because access to worship and knowledge of the Bible will be accessible to them.  Without interpreters, there may be hard of hearing members who can use their residual hearing, talk and speechread (lipread) well enough to follow the songs and the message or be able to follow it at some level with support from someone taking notes for them.  This may be minimally adequate for one individual, but not sufficient for supporting a ministry group of deaf people.

It’s important to view Deaf People as a linguistic minority group – their language is American Sign Language, which is fully fledged language with a grammar and modality different from spoken English. It is a language, as much as English, Spanish or Russian is, and has a different modality – it is visual-gestural, not spoken. With that understanding, meeting the need would be very similar to what one would do to interact with or to reach out to any other group that does not use English as their primary language.  Many of our congregations serve linguistic minority groups through a specialized ministry, which is integrated into the church and also has unique cultural and language needs met through events held in that minority language.

For a ministry to grow into a healthy group and have communication work effectively, there would need to be American Sign Language interpreters to facilitate communication between deaf and hearing people in the church.   Interpreters and deaf members also become advocates or educators of hearing people who do not have knowledge of Deaf culture, ASL, and visually oriented ways of living.  This is not to say interpreters are the most important part of DM – but a key piece to the puzzle to get a DM started and maintained as part of a larger English-speaking (hearing)  congregation.

There are many areas of interpreting that can be discussed, even other areas of Deaf Ministry – however, this article will focus on the beginning steps of developing interpreters who can serve in the Deaf Ministry.

1.  Leadership support

For a church’s DM to be long lasting, not fly-by-night, the church leadership would need to be supportive of the effort by being invested in the relationships, such as in shepherding the ministry, and by being financially committed and able to pay for interpreters (community professionals) for Sunday worship or midweek if there are not members of the church who can regularly meet the need.  Without this commitment, there is no guarantee of consistent access to God’s word and encouragement for a deaf disciple. A deaf person or people in this situation will be hard pressed to keep close relationships with God or members of the church.  Genuine support would lead to the provision of that bridge between hearing and deaf people.

2. Interpreter development – from within the congregation and from outside
From within — A person who wants to become a skilled interpreter has two steps to take: to learn the language as you would a spoken language, then learn the skills of interpreting between ASL and English.  The good news is this can be done!  The most effective way is to go to a ASL program at a college or university with a good reputation in the Deaf community, then gain interpreting skills from taking specialized ASL interpreting skills classes.  The church can teach ASL classes – the best purpose this can serve is to create a basic connection between the deaf and hearing people by giving basic signs for interactions, to get someone interested in learning the language more thoroughly by later taking a formal class, and to dispel some myths that many hearing people have about deaf people – such as the myths that ASL is not a language, that all deaf people can or should lipread, or that deaf people cannot drive, etc.
From outside – I’ve found this a challenging area.  ASL interpreters have a pretty rare skill, so they are often asked to volunteer to interpret in various settings.  If we see that an interpreter is visiting our congregation, it may be tempting to be overly friendly with the hopes that they will come back because of the DM and serve.  Like any other individuals who may or may not be interested in seeking God or joining the church, if the interpreter is interested to come back because of personal spiritual interest, this, I’ve found to be the most healthy.  Then the person may choose to learn about what we believe and decide to join us.  If not, having the friendship long term with the person is great – friendship shouldn’t be dependent on them being willing to serve the DM.

We have been blessed with some interpreters who have decided to follow God as college students at Pierce College or at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).   This has been a source of help to our ministry.  When a young signer or interpreting student becomes a Christian, they may be eager to interpret right away and usually the need is evident.  Speaking for myself, I was interpreting before and after I was a Christian for deaf people visiting church, then for our new DM.  I didn’t realize I needed boundaries – it’s still an area of my life I’m working on!  It would have been more spiritually healthy for me to wait and be grounded as a Christian in my relationship with God and friendships before doing so.  It would have helped me learn to balance the two – service and the meeting of my own spiritual needs.  Therefore, it would be wise to practice this with young interpreters or signers (who would be interpreters but are still learning the language) and who can serve also, in due time.  These young interpreters will need training and mentoring from the more experienced DM interpreters.  I’ll address this topic in the next article along with sharing some ways we have structured our interpreter service team.

Thanks for reading this first article on interpreters…. I pray it was helpful.
I hope to write more on other interpreter-related topics.

If you have any questions or would like to be in touch with me, my email is helen.hayter.quiroz@csun.edu.

Helen Hayter Quiroz, MA, CI/CT
Los Angeles Deaf Ministry Team

Adam Carlson

Adam Carlson was born deaf and raised in the Twin Cities, MN, USA.  He was attending a non-denominational church during his childhood, through high school.  During this time, there was no interpreter available for him to receive much of the Sunday messages.  Adam learned ASL at a young age and had the assistance of an interpreter for his mainstream education.

Adam’s biggest challenge for being deaf is not being able to do what his heart felt compelled to do.  It was always his childhood dream to be in the Law Enforcement field, however heavy use of phone, radio, and the importance of hearing (for the sake of safety) are not things that he is able to do.  He is still on a quest, following wherever God leads him.  God has a plan for him in life, and he wish to seek it out and follow it.

Adam went to a Christian college where he met his future wife.   He married Mikenzie after she graduated college, and he finished 2 years.  Shortly after getting married, Adam got a job at a public school where he met a fellow ICOC disciple.  She introduced Adam to the Church of Christ in Minneapolis, where they made arrangements so that he could have an interpreter for his church services!  Adam became a disciple because this is what God asks of me.  He has made Jesus Lord and Savior on my life, and thus, he wished to be born again in Him. Adam try to follow His footsteps each day, and bear the cross each day as well.

After a year of attendance, and bi-weekly studies with his small groups and pastors, Adam was baptized in June of 2010.  He is still studying the bible everyday with his family, including his wife, who was baptized through another church.

Today, Adam is the only deaf disciple at Minneapolis/ St. Paul Church of Christ.  For this reason, things are a little different.  His ability to communicate with the hearing world is still okay, as he able to lipread somewhat.  Adam does get plenty of attention in church, but it is mostly from his close church family who is making sure that he is doing well 🙂 God bless his church family for going out of their way to make sure he is easily overcome any barriers that his deafness may present. Adam knows that God has a plan for me as a deaf disciple as well, and he plan to use this unique situation that he is to serve Him as best he can.

Ever since Adam was born again, God has truly blessed him.   He has been given an incredible opportunity for a new career.  Adam was given 2 brand new hearing aids by Starkey Labs.  God has also given Adam and Mikenzie a new baby!  We are due to have our first child in July, 2011.

First and foremost, Adam is going to continue to grow in Christ.  He is slowly but surely becoming a true disciple.  His first goal is to help lead by example.  He wants to serve the Lord by giving time, money, and my skills to help others.  Adam does love absolutely everyone that God introduces me to!  He does have more long term goals; however they are not fully formed yet.  His wish is to someday become more involved in the deaf community here, and reach out to some of God’s lost children.   Currently, his work that he does now allows me to meet new deaf people each week.

Loving the Deaf Community as Disciples of Jesus