MANHASSET, N.Y. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted rules moving the Video Relay Service (VRS) closer to the goal of providing deaf and hard of hearing persons functionally equivalent access to the nation's telephone system.
VRS is a form of telecommunications relay service (TRS). TRS enables an individual with a hearing or speech disability to communicate by telephone or other device through the telephone system with a person without such a disability. VRS allows communications using sign language through a communications assistant who facilitates the call via a video link, rather than through typed text.
The new rules establish, for the first time, mandatory speed of answer requirements for VRS, require VRS to be offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and permit VRS providers to be compensated for providing VRS Mail.
The Commission recognized VRS as a form of TRS in March 2000, but waived the speed of answer rules for VRS until January 1, 2006. Speed of answer refers to the amount of time that elapses between receipt of dialing information and the dialing of the requested number.
By Jan. 1, 2006, VRS providers must answer 80 percent of all VRS calls within 180 seconds; by July 1, 2006, VRS providers must answer 80 percent of all VRS calls within 150 seconds; and by Jan. 1, 2007, VRS providers must answer 80 percent of all VRS calls within 120 seconds.
Under the new rules, VRS providers must offer around-the-clock service to be eligible for compensation from the Interstate TRS Fund. When a deaf or hard of hearing person makes a VRS call to a hearing person who is not able to take the call, the VRS provider can leave a voice message for the hearing person, and the VRS call is eligible for compensation from the Fund.