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March 25, 2003

CSD Partners with Chicago Hearing Society to Open VRS Operations Center

From: CDS - 25 Mar 2003


Release Date:March 21, 2003

Contact: Rick Norris

CSD Communications Office

CSDPartners with Chicago Hearing Society

to Open VRS Operations Center

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.–CSD has joined forces with the Chicago Hearing Society to provide interpreter services for the video relay center to be opened this coming April in the Chicago area. Video relay service (VRS) enables American Sign Language users to communicate via video-conferencing with people who use standard telephones.

“VRS has been very popular with sign language users because it combines the interpreting profession with advanced technology to provide easy, accessible communication,” said Benjamin Soukup, CSD chief executive officer. “Due to its rapid growth and popularity, CSD has been expanding its VRS network across the nation for the past year. We are pleased to work with the Chicago Hearing Society and look forward to providing interpreters in the Chicago area with a new alternative to employment.”

VRS is a new supplement to the traditional TTY relay service. To use VRS, sign language users need a personal computer, an inexpensive video camera and high-speed Internet access. Consumers access the service via the web site Consumers will see the video interpreter on their screen. After giving the interpreter the phone number they wish to call, consumers proceed with the conversation by signing to the interpreter who speaks through a headset to the hearing person on the other end.When the hearing person responds verbally over the phone, the interpreter signs to the deaf consumer.

Hearing consumers, who wish to communicate with a deaf person, may access the service by calling(866)410-5787 andgiving an Internet protocolnumber, username on or ISDN number to the video interpreter.

CSD initiated VRS trials in South Dakota in 1999. In 2000, CSD began providing VRS for the state of Texas. By December 2001, CSD, in alliance with Sprint, was the first to provide VRS on a nationwide basis.Because of the growing demand for VRS, CSD has opened a number of VRS centers across the country.By April, there should be nine centers within CSD’s VRS network across the country.

“Consumer response has been phenomenal,” exclaims Kelly Stephens,a CSD marketing representative. “During fiscal year 2002,the volume of callsgrew at a very rapid rate. We believe that consumers like VRS because they can communicate in sign language instead ofhaving totype their conversations on a TTY.And many consumerssaythe best thing about VRS is the ability to see thefacial expressions of the interpreterwhich helpscommunicate thevocal tone of the hearing person. Andof course, the tone of the interpreter’s voice can convey the expressions of the caller using sign language.As a result, theconversational flowis more natural.”

“CHS is delighted that CSD has chosen Chicago as a site for a VRS center,” commented Kim Bianco, assistant director of CHS interpreter services. “The Chicago area is fortunate to have many skilled and

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CSD Contracts with Chicago Hearing Society Page 2

March 21, 2003

dedicated interpreters. We’re very pleased to be able to offer interpreters the opportunity to work in such an exciting branch of their profession.”

For more information about CSD’sVRS,orany of its otherprograms,

About CHS– the Chicago Hearing Society (CHS) was established in 1979, to empower deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people to communicate with each other, thereby lessening the isolation which separates them. CHS offers a wide variety of programs including interpreting referral services, domestic violence counseling, hearing aid sales and service, advocacy, information and referral, sign language classes, youth programs, assistive technology and TTY distribution, and many others. For more information, see the CHS web site

About CSD–CSD (also known as Communication Service for the Deaf) was established in 1975, primarily to provide sign language interpreting services to deaf and hard of hearing adults in South Dakota. Today, CSD employs over 2,000 individuals in offices across the nation, providing a broad continuum of social and human service programs, as well as telecommunications relay services. CSD is a private, nonprofit agency dedicated to providing quality services; ensuring public accessibility; and increasing awareness of issues affecting deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired individuals. For more information,

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