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May 1, 2003

Video Relay Service for Deaf Celebrates First Anniversary by Introducing New Services

From: CSD - May 1, 2003



Release Date:May 1, 2003

Contact:Rick Norris

CSD Communications Office



Media Contacts:

Rick Norris, (605) 367-5760


Steve Lunceford, (703) 295-5700                      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Video Relay Service for Deaf Celebrates First Anniversary by Introducing New Services

First national VRS adds new features


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. and OVERLAND PARK, KS - May 1, 2003 - One year ago this month, the deaf community received the chance to dramatically change the way they communicate with the hearing community through the launch of - a new, easy-to-use relay service that gave them the ability to use American Sign Language (ASL) instead of typing to a relay operator. Today, to celebrate the first anniversary of USA VRS, the first national video relay service (VRS) for the deaf, CSD and Sprint launched a newly redesigned web site featuring new services and functionality to improve the VRS experience for deaf and hard of hearing customers.


Some of the new features include:

° Direct dial from the home page without having to first log on
° Video window now incorporated into the home page, no need to launch separately
° Alphabetized phone book that is easier to edit
° New dialing instruction box, allowing users to provide specific details up front for video interpreter
° Addition of a Video Café feature that allows you to easily connect with others online via a direct video connection, e-mail, AOL Instant Messenger or pager
° Access to user listings at for an even faster and easier calling experience


"It was one year ago this month that was first launched, and we've constantly looked for ways to improve the product and services," said Benjamin Soukup, CSD chief executive officer. "This spirit of innovation is the reason why CSD and Sprint are perpetual leaders in the telecommunications relay service and VRS industries."

"The changes to will be evident as soon as customers visit the new site," said Mike Ligas, region vice president for Sprint Relay. "We're still the only VRS to offer 24-hour availability to the deaf community, and the improved services and new functions of the web site continue to position USAVRS as the nation's premiere video relay service."

Introduced last year by CSD and Sprint,USAVRS offers the nation's 28 million deaf and hard of hearing individuals the ability to communicate with the hearing, using ASL in a format comparable to standard videoconferencing. A deaf caller contacts a video interpreter via a Web camera through their computer. The interpreter then translates the caller's ASL into speech for hearing users, and speech into ASL for the deaf user. USAVRS is free to all users and requires only a personal computer, a Web camera and high-speed Internet connectivity such as DSL or a Cable modem.

A Year of Firsts

USAVRS has seen many highlights since its launch last year, including:

° First to provide nationwide VRS via the Web (May 1, 2002)
° First -and still the only - to provide Macintosh support
° First -and still the only -VRS with 24-hour operations, 365 days a year
° First to provide Spanish interpreting for VRS
° First to develop stringent video interpreter (VI) training and quality assurance, ensuring the utmost professionalism and confidentiality for users
° Only VRS provider with live customer service representatives
° Expanded to nine video interpreting centers nationwide, employing more than 300 video interpreters, the most of any VRS
° Supports the industry's greatest variety of platforms and software.


Sprint and CSD have a history of developing innovative approaches to telecommunications relay services. The two organizations have been providing traditional telecommunications relay service (TRS) through a joint partnership since 1991. Using video applications on such a scale to provide greater accessibility was a first for the call center industry, as well as for the deaf and hard of hearing communities. 


Sprint is the nation's leading provider of telecommunications relay services (TRS), including video and Internet relay, with over a decade of experience. TheU.S. government, 28 states and Puerto Rico currently rely on Sprint's 11 relay operations centers. Additional information is found at at


About CSD - CSD (also known as Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc.) was established in 1975, primarily to provide sign language interpreting services to deaf and hard of hearing adults inSouth Dakota. Today, CSD employs over 2,500 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, please visit


About Sprint

Sprint is a global communications company serving more than 26 million business and residential customers in over 70 countries. With approximately 72,000 employees worldwide and more than $26 billion in annual revenues, Sprint is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying state-of-the-art network technologies, including the United States' first nationwide all-digital, fiber-optic network and Sprint's award-winning Tier 1 Internet backbone. Sprint provides local voice and data services in 18 states and operates the largest 100 percent digital, nationwide PCS wireless network in theUnited States.