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 UMD Brings First Videophones to Northern Minnesota

State-of-the-Art Communication for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing

UMD and Sorenson Video Relay Service of the Twin Cities have collaborated to provide the FIRST public videophone stations in Northern Minnesota.

The video phones allow people who are deaf and hard or hearing to communicate with others using American Sign Language over a videophone connection. They can contact other deaf people who also have videophones directly, or they can contact hearing people through the Video Relay Service. The videophone stations are open to the entire community, and are located in the UMD Multicultural Center (2nd floor, UMD Kirby Student Center) and the UMD Library. Photo: UMD students Elee Vang and Ferry Veu (on videophone) use the new stations.

The videophone produces a video image on screen that allows participants in the call to sign to each other.

Deaf and hard of hearing people, their friends and families can communicate with each other more efficiently and more naturally than ever before. As well, deaf and hard of hearing people can conduct business, and contact service providers of all kinds directly and easily through VRS.

Telecommunication access is an important community service for UMD to provide. The video phone stations will serve all members of the UMD community as well as the larger Twin Ports region. There are deaf students enrolled at all of the area colleges, for whom this service will be very valuable. Additionally, there are several faculty members at UMD who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as numerous students who have deaf or hard of hearing family members or friends with whom they would like to communicate.

The system does require a high speed internet connection, which is not available to all geographic areas in the Northland. Thus many deaf or hard of hearing people are unable to obtain this technology for their homes. As a public institution, UMD is providing a service to these members of our community.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Sorenson VRS?
Sorenson Video Relay Service (VRS) is a free service for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community that enables anyone to conduct video relay calls with family, friends, or business associates through a certified ASL interpreter via a high-speed Internet connection and a video relay solution (or VRS call option).

Who is Sorenson VRS for?
Video relay calls are placed over a high-speed or broadband Internet connection (i.e. DSL, cable, or T1 line) through an easy-to-use Sorenson VP-100 videophone appliance connected to a TV, or through a personal computer equipped with a Web camera and Sorenson EnVision SL (or Microsoft NetMeeting) software. The deaf user sees an ASL interpreter on their TV and signs to the interpreter, who then contacts the hearing user via a standard phone line and relays the conversation between the two parties. Hearing customers can also place video relay calls to any deaf or hard-of-hearing individual by simply dialing the toll free number 1-866-FAST-VRS (1 866-327-8877) with a standard telephone

How is Sorenson VRS funded?
All VRS companies are funded by a federal fund, administered by NECA (National Exchange Carriers Association) that funds traditional Telecommunication Relay Service (TRS). These funds are made available by a federal law, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires functional equivalency in telecommunications access. Sorenson Communications is reimbursed for the minutes of Sorenson Video Relay Service (VRS) calls that are interpreted. Sorenson Communications is not reimbursed for equipment that is supplied including videophones, routers, switches, or any other equipment.

For information contact: Nancy Diener, UMD Program Coordinator 218 726-8709 (voice), 218 726-7380 TTY, or
See the Sorenson website:

Written by Susan Beasy Latto.

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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