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Editorial #5 – Clearing the Air

Clearing the Air
An Op-Ed Editorial from Dr. Z

A recent request for clarification from Purple deserves comment:

First, I do agree the FCC needs to clarify practices in a timely way that may be in a gray area.

I applaud any effort at clarification.

I certainly agree that multi-party calls are reimbursable and that there should be no discrimination for deaf only versus hearing only calls. Dr. Z has participated in many effective multiparty calls thru the years and these are great time savers. A deaf group’s only alternative would be to drive or fly to meet in person. In the future this may be obviated by new technologies. I have seen some promising technology with MCUs that could help in this area.

There is a part of this clarification request that is very disturbing. It involves “outreach”.

We all have heard credible stories of deaf to hearing outreach where indeed the purpose was to drive VRS minutes. One of these involved hiring as many as 60 deaf working 2 shifts making calls all day with requirements to “extend the call as long as you can and be on calls for at least 80% of the time”. We believe this is abuse of the fund and of deaf people. We estimated this was resulting in an annual rate of minutes billed to NECA generating over $20M per year.

At the same time we have heard of hearing people calling deaf people for surveys or outreach to deaf. And this is from the same company that uses deaf to outreach to hearing. Wouldn’t it be simpler to have hearing outreach to hearing and deaf outreach to deaf? Of course no NECA minutes there. The Purple clarification calls for allowing these practices. I do not concur.

We all want to see deaf people hired in real jobs that have a legitimate economic basis other than driving TRS minutes even if the individual’s compensation has no direct tie to minutes. Certainly the provider’s compensation has a direct tie to minutes.

Of course there are times when deaf or hearing at a provider use the TRS service in the course of their job. However when the job is designed with the financial basis to drive VRS minutes then it is unethical and fraudulent.

In regard to 3rd parties:

If it is a third party that does not have compensation tied to minutes, then why are they doing it? ZVRS was approached by a company that said they could generate 10,000 minutes per day. They would do outreach for CSDVRS using a room full of deaf making TRS calls to hearing. They advised because the fund would not tolerate pay for minutes they would pay ZVRS for emails generated as a result of the calls. And then they went on to describe the likely number of minutes generated per email.

It does not take advanced algebra to figure out this formula. Cheating = Cheating. There are creative cheaters and non-creative cheaters but the formula prevails.

My momma once told me, “if it smells bad don’t eat it”. In TRS/VRS, we should ask? Does it past the smell test? If it doesn’t, don’t do it! Some things smell and some things stink.

2 comments to Editorial #5 – Clearing the Air

  • Jessica

    I think licensing the interpreters is a very good idea. Almost all service providers have to be licensed by their states. Even cosmeticians and hair stylists, contractors, doctors, nurses, landscaping companies, etc. Why not interpreters and agencies?

  • CR

    I agree with what you are saying. I think the simplist solution for outreach calls from deaf to hearing or from hearing to deaf is to force the company to use a VRS company other than their own. This would force the companies doing the outreach to do a real cost benefit analysis just like any other company. This would also allow VRS companies to continue employing deaf and hard of hearing. I know some companies would balk at this but if legitimate outreach without the padded TRS minutes is not going to make them money then they shouldn’t do it at all.

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