Company claims communicative tool for the deaf is in jeopardy - - Jackson, MS

Company claims communicative tool for the deaf is in jeopardy

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By Ashley Conroy

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - A company, Sorenson Video Relay System (VRS), has issued claims on its web site that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is threatening the future of VRS.

This system is used nationwide by deaf persons, and it allows them to instantly connect with the world through a video monitoring system.

VRS user Ashley McHann was born profoundly deaf.  She attributed her independence to the video relay system and compares the technology to a web cam.  

"It's for the deaf people who can call an interpreter and communicate with the hearing people," McHann said through sign language, her mother interpreting.

McHann and her mother, Margaret Dunaway, demonstrated how to use the VRS service. McHann dialed a number using a remote, and it instantly connected her to an interpreter.

The 27-year-old was speaking to Dunaway on the phone through the interpreter while her mother was in the room with her.  The interpreter then relayed everything included in McHann's sign language in speech to her mother.

After Sorensen VRS issued this statement on their web site, McHann and Dunaway were weary Thursday of what's next.

"And definitely all of our community would be hurt big time," McHann said.

"Their whole way of life would change.  If there was an emergency, she would not be able to get any help," Dunaway said about her daughter.

The Mississippi School for the Deaf uses the VRS system everyday.  Director of Elementary Dormitories Kevin Cronin said not only would his job be altered, but the students who attend the school would also be affected.

"They use the service a lot.  I mean it's there everyday for communicating," said Cronin.

The FCC issued a statement saying the claims of the VRS service being threatened are "not true."

They continued in the statement:

"The FCC is committed to ensuring the provision of high quality VRS to all individuals who need this service.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires telecommunications access that is functionally equivalent to voice telephone services for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities. This was the goal of Congress in passing the ADA and it continues to be our goal."

McHann hoped the claims are not true because she said her life would change drastically otherwise.

"Through the interpreters, with the video, it's just the best.  It's the best help for us and the deaf community," McHann said.

Meanwhile, the FCC said they are adjusting their rates to a "reasonable" amount and issued a "public notice" on April 30th about this matter.

Sorenson VRS said if consumers would like more information about this issue to go to their web site at

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