SHARE: PARS Priority Update

[Video description can be found below. If you use a screen reader and need to access the caption file transcript, go to “More…” and click on “Transcript”]

Zainab Alkebsi, NAD Policy Counsel, gives an update regarding one of the 2014-2016 Priorities, Preservation and Advocacy of Relay Services (PARS).

Video description and transcript: Zainab stands in the lobby of NAD Headquarters. A small white NAD logo appears on bottom right corner.

ZAINAB: This video is to provide an update regarding one of the five priorities from the 2014 NAD conference in Atlanta: Preservation and Advocacy of Relay Services (PARS). Shortly after the conference, the NAD developed and posted a position statement on the need to continue innovations within all relay systems and it is available on the NAD website. Since then, the NAD has continued to meet with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to advocate the PARS priority, and have made many filings with the FCC.

We, along with other sister organizations, filed comments urging the commission to:

– impose a faster interim speed of answer standard – reducing the VRS answer time from 120 seconds to 45 seconds for 80% of all VRS calls
– adopt a flexible trial of “skills-based routing”
– authorize providers to use qualified deaf sign language interpreters
– authorize the use of at-home interpreters under strict conditions regarding privacy of consumer communications, and
– permit the assignment of 10-digit numbers for phones used by hearing individuals who sign.

The FCC is still considering these issues and we will keep you updated. We are also asking the FCC to provide these service improvements without cutting rates further. We have urged the FCC to implement a rate freeze across the board while deciding how to improve services. In response to our filings, the FCC restored rates to a previous level for the smallest two VRS providers. Unfortunately, one small provider, Star VRS, has closed as of March 2016, and we need to ensure other providers do not also go out of business. The NAD has informed the FCC that their rate cuts have hurt the quality of VRS to deaf and hard of hearing consumers and the FCC should instead be focusing on improving VRS quality. Part of the priority requires us to connect with Congress on this issue. We have had many meetings with Senators and Representatives in Congress regarding relay services. Also, we met with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which released a report on May 8, 2015 confirming that the Commission needs to establish performance goals to oversee its national TRS program. This report reinforces the points from our position statement and we will keep pushing for equal telecommunications for all. Thank you.

Video fades to a soft white background with several different font types showing “NAD” very quickly. Copyright video ends with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) logo centered. Blue text below the logo appears, “A production of the National Association of the Deaf (copyright) 2016 All Rights Reserved”.

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