Steve has several communication tools under his control, including email, Facebook, video phones, VRS (Video Relay Service), and me. He has now added VRI (Video Remote Interpreting) for church related communication. From what I understand, the service has a cost if we use the company’s interpreters. It is free if we use a volunteer interpreter and the equipment is set up in the interpreter’s home. (Anyone want to volunteer?)
When the Deaf ward did not work out, Steve set to work with the intention of getting VRI set up in our home ward. He encountered several obstacles; including technical difficulties, miscommunication, no communication, and misunderstandings such as the belief that one unskilled interpreter in a different ward was sufficient for him. I assisted along the way by explaining a few things, such as the fact that Steve knows more about VRI than anyone in the ward, including me. The fact that the Church Handbook 2 says nothing about VRI was an obstacle.
After several weeks of effort, I felt that people had given up. Through “cosmic forces”…ok, the Spirit pushed me, I had the opportunity to talk to our new ward bishop and his wife about the situation and about how I was feeling. His wife, by the way, is my former Visiting Teacher and is one of the first people in the ward to learn how to communicate with Steve by fingerspelling and a few signs. She also got many people, including Stake High Council members, to write their Sacrament Meeting messages so that Steve could have a copy of them.
Bishop felt a desire to make VRI work for us. Perhaps the knowledge that the efforts of a willing but unskilled signer gave Steve about 20% of our leaders’ messages during Ward Conference, and most of the time Steve was teaching her signs, helped him to see the light. I think, however, the one thing that did the trick, was when our Relief Society president and Bishop called Steve on his video phone using VRS. The RS Pres. was so happy with it, she told all of the women in RS meeting how much fun it was to talk to Steve on the phone and she encouraged them to call him. Maybe she didn’t tell them that they would actually be talking to an interpreter, but he can use voice carry-over if he remembers to do that.
Bishop said to me as best as I can recall, “It appeared that the interpreter was able to tell him exactly what I said.” That is very good feedback. It lets people know that Sign Language is not just a baby language and using a professional interpreter is better than writing, or typing, or using an unskilled signer. I explained to Bishop that a professional interpreter is not just for Steve; it is for anyone who wants to communicate with him in an effortless (well, maybe not for the interpreter) and confidential manner.
With the efforts of Steve, our VRS/VRI company and interpreters, Bishop, ward clerk, me, and most of all God, we were able to have VRI approved. Getting the approval was a large hurdle. We still have to find interpreters and figure out how to use it. Steve also has to decide when and where to use it. I am confident that he will figure it out, and I am happy that he has an additional tool that will give him access to professional interpreters while we (hopefully) grow an interpreter or two.