Video relay service (VRS) is a federally funded service that provides telecommunications access for deaf people. It is also a for-profit industry with guidelines that may limit the autonomy of the sign language interpreters who work in VRS settings. In this volume, Erica Alley examines how VRS interpreters, or “Communication Assistants,” exercise professional autonomy despite the constraints that arise from rules and regulations established by federal agencies and corporate entities. Through interviews with VRS interpreters, Alley reveals the balance they must achieve in providing effective customer service while meeting the quantitative measures of success imposed by their employer in a highly structured call center environment.
Alley considers the question of how VRS fits into the professional field of interpreting, and discovers that—regardless of the profit-focused mentality of VRS providers—interpreters make decisions with the goal of creating quality customer service experiences for deaf consumers, even if it means “breaking the rules.” Her findings shed light on the decision-making process of interpreters and how their actions are governed by principles of self-care, care for colleagues, and concern for the quality of services provided. Professional Autonomy in Video Relay Service Interpreting is essential reading in interpreter education courses and interpreter training programs.