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Zainab Alkebsi, NAD Policy Counsel, shares latest advocacy efforts to improve VRS. The FCC has recently taken action on skills-based routing, deaf interpreters, comparison shopping, and direct calling with hearing signers, and is now seeking comments on establishing VRS quality metrics.

VIDEO DESC & TRANSCRIPT: Zainab Alkebsi is standing in the NAD Headquarters lobby. The NAD logo appears on bottom right corner as a watermark.

ZAINAB: For many years, the NAD has advocated to improve VRS by filing comments and holding meetings at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). On March 23, 2017, the FCC approved new service improvements for VRS, which include:
1. Skills-Based Routing – The FCC has authorized an eight-month trial of routing VRS calls to interpreters with expertise to handle specific kinds of calls such as those that require legal, medical, and technical discussions. The NAD has advocated for such skills-based routing because we believe it will reduce the call length and improve the quality of these calls.
2. Deaf Interpreters – The FCC has also authorized an eight-month trial of reimbursing VRS providers who use qualified deaf interpreters. Using deaf interpreters will provide functionally equivalent calls for many deaf people including those who have additional disabilities or use sign language other than ASL.
3. Comparison Shopping – The FCC will publish VRS providers’ speed-of-response data on its website to help consumers make informed choices.
4. Direct Calling with Hearing Signers – In the past, hearing signers were not able to use videophones — now, they are allowed to receive videophones. Videophone (VP) numbers will be made available to hearing people who use ASL so that we can communicate directly with our hearing signing family, friends, and colleagues instead of using VRS.


ZAINAB: The FCC also authorized a pilot program that will allow VRS operators/interpreters to work from home. Based on the concerns of Consumer Groups, VRS interpreters can only work from home with strict requirements to maintain call quality and confidentiality. The FCC will review to see if the pilot shows that the quality and confidentiality of calls have the same protection when going through those home-based VRS interpreters. The FCC will decide if home-based VRS calls will be allowed after the pilot.


ZAINAB: As part of our VRS reform advocacy, the NAD took the position that the FCC must establish quality of service metrics to ensure functional equivalence. The FCC is now seeking comment on measuring VRS quality through performance metrics. The NAD is also seeing a troubling trend of scam VRS calls, and the FCC is seeking comment on those scam calls. The NAD continues its work to ensure equal access to telecommunications for every deaf and hard of hearing person. 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) 2017 All Rights Reserved”.

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