Deaf people can use the phone.
The phone is no longer a barrier to communication for Deaf people. Canada’s Video Relay System (VRS) is a free service that launched in September 2016 and gives Deaf and hard of hearing people an easy way to communicate with hearing people using the phone.
WHAT IS VRS?
VRS uses video conferencing via the internet to provide real-time interpretation of phone conversations between Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) people and others.
HOW DOES VRS WORK?
DHH people download the VRS app, then register for a 10-digit number and share it with employers, friends and family. A DHH person places a call using a device equipped with a web camera. A hearing person dials the number using a phone.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I CALL A VRS NUMBER?
After you dial, you are connected with an interpreter who places your call. If you are DHH, you use ASL to communicate your message to the interpreter, who speaks or signs to the person on the other end of the phone. If you are a hearing person, you speak to the interpreter and they use ASL to communicate your speech to the DHH person.
HOW IS VRS DIFFERENT FROM THE OLD TEXT-BASED PHONE SYSTEM?
VRS lets phone conversation flow naturally between DHH and hearing people. Interpreters convey the information almost simultaneously between the two parties. The old text system took longer and conversation was stilted. More importantly, English is a second language for many Deaf people; ASL is their first language.
DO I NEED SPECIAL EQUIPMENT?
No. A DHH person can place a VRS call with their personal PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone equipped with a web camera. Hearing people will just use the telephone.
DO I NEED TO PAY FOR THE VRS APP?
The app is free. A DHH person must download one of the apps on their device of choice. Apps are available for PC, iPhone and Android. For Mac there is a web-based portal.
CAN I USE VRS ANY TIME OF THE DAY?
Not right now. In Alberta, VRS operates Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
On Saturday and Sunday it operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Emergency 911 is only available during service hours.