Video Relay Services (VRS) Today!

Tory Radio is starting to cover some of the more interesting political campaigns which take place, to give the listeners an idea of what is going on in an around Westminster.

This week I interviewed Paul Kershisnik, from an American company called Sorenson Communications.  Sorenson provide Video Relay Services (VRS) for Deaf people in the USA, and they are involved in a UK campaign called VRS Today! which is calling for a universal VRS market here.  Deaf people use VRS as a hearing person uses the telephone. It allows them to speak in British Sign Language (BSL) via a webcam to an interpreter, who translates the conversation in real time to a hearing person.  This is up to five times faster than using text-based relay services, and allows Deaf people to communicate in BSL, which is their first language.


The VRS Today! campaign is calling for an open market in the UK for VRS providers, giving Deaf consumers the choice to access the telecoms services they want. An independent report has already demonstrated a net benefit to the economy of over £500m. To make this happen, Ofcom and DCMS need to create the right conditions for a market to be viable.  Over 100 MPs have already backed the campaign.


To find out more about the campaign, and to see how you can help, visit

Listen to our podcast with Paul Kershisnik by clicking the link below.


5 Responses to Video Relay Services (VRS) Today!

  1. UK_VRI_Innovator says:

    Dear Tory,
    With respect, this is not actually entirely true.

    VRI could have a huge economic benefit in the UK, but Sorensen are campaigning in an extremely divisive way to ensure that they monopolise the market in exactly the way they have been doing in the US. Your interview seems entirely idiosyncratic of the way in which Sorensen is trying to win over public sympathy at the same time.

    It must also be pointed out that in the US, co-incidentally, there has been extremely wide-spread abuse of this publicly-funded model:

    In the US, "some" VRI providers have been discovered encouraging interpreters to collude and manipulate the public-sector's inability to manage and monitor contracts. Their method is to get the interpreter to leave the video phone "off the hook" and extensively rack up the chargeable minutes for the service. This is all billed back to the US public through their phone-bills at a rate of around $6/min.

    VRI in the UK MUST follow more traditional contract-letting processes, where all language are delivered using the same technology, and all costs are borne by the interpreting budgets of public bodies and not the UK taxpayer,,,which is the Sorensen model.

    People must not be mis-led by this US corporate approach, and this is why your following statement is entirely inaccurate inaccurate: "To make this happen, Ofcom and DCMS need to create the right conditions for a market to be viable"

    I have demonstrated exactly how public sector interpreting budgets can be cut by 50%, including the spend for sensory impairment services like BSL. There are a number of extremely competent UK_based VRI technology providers, and by researching the right methods, the UK government can make these savings without burdening the UK tax payer.

    • VRS campaign team says:

      The VRS Today! campaign has been developed following lengthy conversations with Deaf organisations and the Deaf community and is supported by all the major VRS providers in the UK.

      It is being funded and supported by Sorenson Communications, the largest provider of VRS in the US (the only country where universal access to VRS is the norm). Sorenson Communications is well placed to support the campaign given its experience providing VRS to sign language users in the US for many years. It has been sharing these experiences with the deaf community, policy makers and politicians in the UK over the last two years in order to help inform the debate, and support efforts to establish an open, competitive market for VRS in the UK.

      Sorenson Communications firmly believes that an open and competitive market is the only way universal access to VRS will be achieved. Establishing an open, competitive market will deliver all the benefits for consumers which will transform the lives of sign language users and the hearing who wish to communicate with them. This can only be achieved if Ofcom and the DCMS create the right conditions for the market to be viable.

      It is for this reason that the VRS Today! campaign is delighted to be working closely with Deaf Connections and Sign Video, the major VRS providers in the UK currently, to educate people about VRS and what we can all do to place pressure on Government to make this service universally available.

    • TommyG says:

      Do you work for Purple? Because Purple was the biggest VRS company caught ringing up fraudulent minutes. Sorenson was clean. They didn't cheat their minutes with this "off the hook" nonsense. You're really "telling it the way it ain't", which makes me question if you're a Purple employee trying to sandbag Sorenson.

  2. @ VRS campaign team & TommyG,

    Sorenson Communications was the target in a December, 2008 Congressional Report titled, DECEPTION AND DISTRUST:

    In this report, Sorenson Communications is documented to have:

    1). Received overcompensation from the TRS (Telecommunications Relay Service) Fund for VRS.
    This resulted in an “enormous ($100 million a year) windfall for Sorenson, at the expense of the ratepayers.”

    2). Was the dominant VRS provider with a 82% market share (monopoly)

    3). Refused to cooperate with government audits from TRS Fund (VRS) disbursements for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006.

    The report concludes,”We recommend that the FCC immediately initiate a full investigation and audit of Sorenson. It is simply unacceptable that a company subject to Commission regulation and which every year receives millions of dollars from a Government fund can refuse to open its books to Government-authorized auditors. The FCC's apparent failure to insist on aUditing Sorenson's
    books indicates an abdication of its responsibility to administer and protect the integrity of the TRS Fund.”


  3. Mike says:

    Video Interpreting is a quick, convenient way for deaf and hearing people to communicate with the assistance of a fluent video interpreter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: