Community Award for Sorenson VRS

By Leonard Hall For the Olathe News

Last month, at the GKC-ADARA chapter holiday banquet, GKC-ADARA presented Sorenson Communications with its outstanding community award. The honor recognized Sorenson Communications for providing Video Relay Service (VRS) for people in the Kansas City area. The award also recognized Sorenson Communications for founding intensive the Interpreter Training Series and for the establishment of VRS Interpreting Centers throughout the county.

Sorenson Communications, the leading provider of VRS for deaf and hard-of-hearing people who use sign language to communicate, provides a free 24-hour service that enables deaf individuals to conduct video relay calls with family, friends, or business associates. Calls are placed through the use of a videophone, high-speed Internet connection, and a standard TV. Calls are relayed between deaf and hearing individuals by a qualified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. The number of VRS calls has increased dramatically over the past several years, resulting in an increased demand for ASL interpreters and additional VRS Interpreting Centers.

Sorenson has established dozens of VRS Interpreting Centers across the United States, including one in Overland Park, Kansas. CSDVRS, HOVRS, Viable, and other VRS providers have also set up VRS call centers across the country and interpreter training programs.

As a result of the increased demand for VRS, VRS call centers are employing a substantial number of interpreters. Many are concerned that there will be a shortage of interpreters available for community services.

When Sorenson held its open house for its Overland VRS Interpreting Center a couple years ago, I met with Sorenson Communications President and CEO Pat Nola and Becky Yadrich, Sorenson Communications District Manager. I expressed my concern on behalf of the city and the Kansas Association of the Deaf about the potential shortage of interpreters in the area due to the opening of the call center.

Nola replied that Sorenson Communications was also concerned about the potential impact of VRS on community interpreting needs and was addressing it through a variety of initiatives. He explained that Sorenson Communications consistently reviews its many initiatives and assesses what longer-term solutions can be implemented to address the critical interpreter shortage and increase the quality of interpreting in America. Sorenson offers flexible shifts to enable interpreters to perform VRS work and work in the local deaf community.

Sorenson went on to establish several outstanding training programs for interpreters, including:

  • A one-of-a-kind Video Interpreter-Provisional (VI-P) Mentorship Program, a 90-day program that takes qualified interpreters with strong foundational skills and advances them through comprehensive training, including VRS call scenarios, one-on-one mentoring, and professional development opportunities. These efforts ready the interpreters for VRS-specific work.
  • A variety of Continuing Education Units or (CEU) workshops. Last year, Sorenson collaborated in providing more than 300 CEU workshops, benefiting more than 4,000 interpreters.
  • Onsite study groups and workshops at Sorenson VRS Interpreting Centers throughout the country to prepare interpreters for the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) tests. Last year, more than 100 interpreters participated in these sessions and workshops.
  • Sponsorships and mentoring opportunities that support and recognize many progressive Interpreter Education Programs (IEPs). This year, Sorenson Communications established the Sorenson VRS Interpreter Education Program Award of Excellence to encourage IEP programs to work to expand curriculum and respond to the ever-increasing demand for interpreters.

Becky Yadrich followed up on Sorenson's commitment to set up an outstanding advanced training program for interpreters so as to meet the ongoing needs of the deaf community, particularly in the Kansas City area.

Note: The City of Olathe employs interpreters in many of its programs, including the municipal court and the police department. It is difficult, however, for these programs to secure interpreters with little advance notice. Deaf individuals need to remember that the city and other public entities need at noticed at least one week in advance to secure an interpreter.

(Leonard Hall writes a weekly column for the deaf community and can be reached at Legalnetwk@aol.com.)

From The Olathe News. Reprinted with permission. Back to Article List