Video Interpreters meet with FCC over VRS changes

Judith Kroeger, Naomi Sheneman, Mary Jane Moore and Norma  Villegas outside FCC headquarters.
Judith Kroeger, Naomi Sheneman, Mary Jane Moore and Norma Villegas outside FCC headquarters.

WASHINGTON _ Video Interpreters met with Federal Communications Commission officials for the first time recently during a meeting arranged by CWA in response to proposed reforms to the video relay system.

During the July 17 meeting, VRS interpreters provided testimony about the impact of increased performance requirements and the impact on consumers stemming from the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released June 10.

Present at the meeting were: Purple Communications video relay interpreters Norma Villegas and Mary Jane Moore, who are members of the Communications Workers of America; National Interpreter Action Network member Judith Kroeger; Naomi Sheneman, a deaf consumer, and two CWA union staffers.

Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Deputy Chief Karen Peltz Strauss; Disability Rights Division Chief Greg Hlibok; Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau legal advisor Robert Aldrich; legal advisor Elaine Gardner; Helen Chang, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Section 504 Officer; and Traci Randolph of the Telecommunications Accessibility Specialist at the Enforcement Bureau were present on behalf of the FCC.

Sheneman, a doctoral student at Gallaudet University, shared the results of a recent survey conducted by fellow student Kathryn Bower on “Stress and Burnout in Video Relay Service (VRS) Interpreting.” The study confirmed the testimony of video interpreters regarding burnout, injuries, lack of time to debrief and mental fatigue they are experiencing as a result of providers’ increase in login and billable rates.

These increases have been established by the various VRS companies as a result of the FCC cut in reimbursement rates in an effort to bring reimbursements in line with actual costs. The FCC estimated that providers are making $2.00 profit per billable minute.

The FCC asked many detailed questions, and, as a result, there were some issues that the VIs were not able to cover in the limited time.  However, working with the Union, the VIs who participated will be reaching out to their colleagues at Purple Communications to ensure that all issues are covered in the written comments that will be due later this summer.

Stay posted for a link to the filing with a summary of CWA’s meeting with the FCC.

If you would like to participate in discussions about the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or about working conditions at your workplace, please contact us at

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Pacific Media Workers Guild

We are the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. We represent more than 1,200 journalists and other media workers, interpreters, translators, union staffs and freelancers.