Are VRI Interpreters Breaking the Law?
There have been numerous issues with obtaining certified interpreters throughout the country however two of the key areas that often escape scrutiny in the community are VRS and VRI interpreters. People often think about the provider being responsible to ensure interpreters are qualified to do the job that they have been assigned. This is already hard enough to prove that agencies in general do this however people often don’t think about asking if the VRS provider they use does this or even the dreaded VRI provider. However even doctors using video are required to be licensed and certified in the same state they are ‘practicing medicine’ An example of that happened recently to a man named Ernest Quintana.
VRI is considered a very cold way to deliver news including life threatening news however it seems like even doctors are utilizing video equipment to deliver bad news. Recently a Fremont family in California witnessed their grandfather be told he was going to die over video by a doctor.
“If you’re coming to tell us normal news, that’s fine, but if you’re coming to tell us there’s no lung left and we want to put you on a morphine drip until you die, it should be done by a human being and not a machine,” his daughter Catherine Quintana said to the Guardian when sharing that her grandfather was told over video he had no lung left and was going to die.
Howard the CEO of NAD, in his segment “Ask Howard Anything” on February 28, 2019; talked about the rights of people as family members (not the patient) to obtain an interpreter during a doctor/hospital visit. This is true in any public setting that an interpreter would be provided for the other party.
“Yes, the law clearly states you must be provided an interpreter if you requested one -- even if you are the companion and not seeking treatment. The hearing person already has direct access to other hearing professionals in the room -- you should have the same communication access.”
The ADA and section 504 clearly says that you must be provided equal access. If you are denied access, you can tell them that you have a right to communication accommodations under the law.
Some states are more strict about licensure laws (certification requirement by those states are more under scrutiny) InDemand Interpreting highlights four states that on top of their national certification requirements, the state also requires interpreters to obtain state licenses to practice in their state. “These laws were passed to provide extra protections for consumers by legally requiring national certification, documented experience and education while also having legal recourse for consumers.” Many of these laws were passed before VRI was as prevalent as it is today, but there are some states that have written into their laws that out of state VRI interpreters must obtain an interpreting license. There are four states (a fifth just passed a licensure law this year) and they are Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
When selecting a VRI vendor, it’s important to regularly audit the interpreters for licensure compliance and confirm that VRI vendors are following through on state legal requirements. Many hospitals and medical facilities, legal offices, etc do not regularly follow this procedure however they should be asking specifically for licensed interpreters when connecting the call. You as a consumer can request that your provider ensure that the interpreter you are using is compliant with the state law.