April 2011 – Deaf Link, a Texas-based accessible communications company, is pleased to recognize the Houston Police Department for providing video remote interpreting (VRI) technology for ASL users in the city of Houston. This addition of VRI along with existing community interpreting agreements provides the HPD and Houston residents with a cost effective and time efficient solution in providing ASL accessibility.
Houston is the nation’s 4th largest city, with over two million residents.
Mike Houston of Deaf Link has been assisting HPD with implementing this access along with providing ASL cultural education, “We have been fortunate to work closely with Officer James Sobota, the point person for the HPD VRI project who himself possesses knowledge of basic sign language. HPD has raised the bar on including a large segment of society often overlooked, citizens who rely on ASL to communicate. Now with VRI and onsite interpreter agencies and internal training, HPD has elevated its commitment to serve and protect all citizens including those who rely on ASL”.
Officer Sobota added, “The HPD has established VRI units at 17 locations throughout the city. While interviewing many companies in the country, Deaf Link stood out with experience and service. Deaf Link was able to assist us from the first inquired phone call all the way to installation.”
Kaitlyn Tracey with the Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities had this to say in praise, “We applaud the efforts of the Houston Police Department and Officer James Sobota in recognizing the need for accessible communication at police stations. This is a large step forward for the deaf community and the city of Houston and hopefully will serve as a platform for future accommodations for the deaf community throughout the country.”
Paul Rutowski, President of the Texas Association of the Deaf (TAD), also had high praise, “TAD appreciates HPD’s efforts in bringing better communication between HPD and the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community by providing Sign Language interpreters, be it live in person or via modern technology such as VRI.”
VRI has been around for almost 10 years, but not until the recent ADA Amendment Act of 2008 has it been officially recognized as an accommodation solution. VRI is not meant to replace community interpreters – it is a tool that allows a limited resource (interpreters) to be managed more effectively, providing an increased range of access for ASL users across the spectrum of daily living, often unscheduled. “Life is more than just a phone call,” says Scott Bailey of Deaf Link, “having VRI access allows us to fully participate in whatever life brings our way. I’d love to see VRI everywhere; it would be like having an interpreter in my pocket. It’s still very important that businesses and consumers understand the difference between VRI and VRS.”
Lets all applaud the HPD for being proactive in providing ADA and Civil Rights accommodations. Too often ASL users must “fight city hall” in obtaining this kind of access – not in Houston, not this time. One small step for Houston, one giant step for ASL access. Does your police department or city hall provide this kind of access?