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Video relay services for the deaf people who use sign language comes to Canada

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The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced on April 22, 2014, that video relay services (VRS) will now be available in Canada for deaf people who communicate in American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ). Video relay services enable callers to use the services of a sign language interpreter through the Internet. The interpreter interprets spoken English into sign for the deaf caller, and voices into English the signs of the deaf caller.

“Many Canadians who are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired learn American Sign Language or Langue des signes québécoise early in life," Peter Menzies, Vice-Chairman of Telecommunications, and Chairman of the hearing panel.

"In many cases, neither English nor French is their first language. Video relay service will make it possible for them to communicate in sign language with ease, whether it’s to make a doctor’s appointment, speak to a friend or make any other type of call. At the same time, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that this service is introduced in an efficient manner and as quickly as possible.”

Users will require their own high-speed Internet service and a device connected to the Internet such as a smartphone, tablet, computer, or videophone. Additional services such as call display and voicemail will be billed at rates similar to those charged by other service providers.

An independent administrator will be created to supervise the implementation and provision of video relay services and ensure that the views of users are taken into account during the decision-making process. The CRTC will review the video relay service three years after it has been launched to determine whether the service is efficiently meeting the needs of Canadians.

The CRTC is requiring that VRS become available to deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired as early as the fall of 2015. The VRS service is offered at no charge, but users must sign up to use it. People who want to use the service can use their own phone number to access VRS. An estimated 20,000 Canadians will be the primary users of VRS.

Deaf Canadians have been lobbying for VRS services for several years. BC VRS has posted a brief video on the struggle to bring VRS services to Canada on YouTube.

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