Video Relay Services Empower Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children to Communicate

The Endevor The Endeavor, Winter 2010

Keeping deaf and hard-of-hearing children in touch with hearing friends and family members can be a unique challenge for parents. Thanks to the advances in communication technology in the past five years, there’s now an easy solution.

Videophones and Video Relay Service (VRS) open a world of communication for deaf and hard-of-hearing children who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate and for their families by providing a skilled sign language interpreter to relay conversations between deaf and hearing individuals in two different locations. Sorenson Communications, the leading VRS provider in the U.S., supplies videophones and VRS to its customers at no charge.

Here’s how it works: When a deaf individual wants to contact a hearing person in a different location, the deaf individual places a video relay call over a high-speed Internet connection through a Sorenson videophone that is connected to a TV screen. When the deaf caller sees a sign language interpreter on their screen, the deaf caller signs to the interpreter, who then contacts the hearing recipient via a standard phone line. The deaf person signs the conversation to the interpreter who simultaneously interprets and voices the conversation to the hearing person, thus relaying the conversation between the two parties. Hearing callers can also place video relay calls to any deaf or hard-of-hearing person by simply dialing the deaf party’s local 10-digit number or DirectVP number with a standard telephone.

Videophones can also be used to make direct, point-to-point calls between deaf individuals who use sign language to communicate—without the assistance of an interpreter.

For deaf children who also use their voice to communicate, Sorenson Communications provides an option called Voice Carry Over (VCO,) which allows a child to speak to the hearing individual using his or her own voice. The deaf or hard of hearing individual then receives the hearing individual’s response through the sign language interpreter on their TV screen. Using VRS with the Sorenson VP-200 ® videophone empowers parents to keep their children and themselves connected with hearing or deaf family members and friends 24/7. And making VRS calls is so simple that even young children can easily complete a call.

Christina is a 12-year-old girl who enjoys using VRS to talk with friends and family. She spoke to Sorenson Communications’ representatives about her experience with VRS. “If I didn’t have VRS and I wanted to talk with my grandparents, I don’t know how I would talk with them. They don’t have a videophone and they don’t sign very well, so I probably wouldn’t be able to talk to them. VRS really improves my communication because I can talk with hearing people.” Christina also uses VRS to communicate with her hearing and deaf friends. She even uses her videophone to show her pets to friends. To see Christina’s story, and see how other young people use Sorenson Communications VRS, visit and

Sorenson Communications’ expert installers come out to VRS users’ homes to install the videophone. The videophone is licensed to the user at no cost, and the trainer will provide tutorial assistance until each family member feels comfortable operating the system.

In addition to empowering deaf children to communicate with hearing callers more easily, VRS is a way to enhance safety for deaf children and their families. Enhanced 911 (E911) calling is a service offered through VRS. Similar to a traditional 911 call for hearing individuals, a deaf individual can dial 911 using a videophone. At Sorenson Communications, E911 calls are given first priority and immediately routed to the first available interpreter who then routes the call to the nearest emergency response center based on the address that the user keeps updated with Sorenson Communications. One Boston parent realized the value of E911 when he was playing with his son. To see his story, go to Knowing that children have a way to call for help in a dire emergency through E911 not only makes them feel more secure, but can provide peace of mind to working parents with children at home alone after school.

To learn more or apply for a Sorenson videophone and sign up for VRS, visit and click on “Apply for a Free VP 200®.”

When you select Sorenson as your default provider of VRS or IP Relay, Sorenson will help you choose a 10-digit telephone number for use with that service.  To select Sorenson as your default provider, call 800-659-4810.  Your new number will be portable to another provider.  To properly route 911 calls to local emergency service providers, Sorenson must have your correct street address.  You can update your address on your Sorenson videophone or by calling 800-659-4810 or visiting  Sorenson will confirm receipt of this address information.  For more information about 10-digit numbers and the limitations and risks associated with using Sorenson's VRS or IP Relay services to place a 911 call, please visit Sorenson’s Web site at:

From The Endeavor. Reprinted with permission. Back to Article List