Limitations of Video Remote Interpreting

Technology is improving many aspects of our lives and sign language interpreting is no exception.  Video Remote Interpreting, or VRI, can be a wonderful and cost-effective way to access interpreting services on-demand.  But how do you know if its an appropriate choice for your medical setting's situation?

The mandates of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990* require all medical facilities ensure effective communication with deaf individuals.  If at any time the deaf consumer determines that VRI does not provide effective communication, the consumer may choose to decline the use of VRI in medical settings.  Some medical situations that may not be conducive for VRI are:

  • Some mental health settings
  • Initial meetings with a specialist
  • Highly sensitive communications (e.g., diagnosis of a serious illness)
  • Eye exams
  • Some occupational and physical therapy sessions
  • Patient transport
  • Video quality is distorted due to signal interference with other medical equipment or "dead zones" within a facility
  • The video interpreter available is not qualified for the scenario in which they are asked to interpret without preparation time or background knowledge of the patient's situation

Additionally, some situations that might typically work well with VRI will not be appropriate due to the nature or condition of the patient.  This could include if the patient:

  • Is a child
  • Has limited cognitive ability
  • Is heavily medicated, intoxicated, or in severe pain
  • Is highly emotional and/or presents violent tendencies
  • Has a secondary disability, such as low vision
  • Has an injury or is undergoing a procedure that prohibits the ability to view the interpreter on a monitor

Interpretek has provided on-site interpreting services across the country for over twenty years.  We are committed to preparing adequately for each assignment we accept and we work hard to ensure the best communication access possible to protect you, your facility, and your deaf consumers.

To get the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf's perspective on VRI, please read their standard practice paper.  Much of the information provided on this blog was provided by this resource.

*Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 eq. seq. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794.

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