Video Remote Interpreting (RID Standard Practice Paper)

About Video Remote Interpreting

Video remote interpreting (VRI) is a fee-based interpreting service conveyed via videoconferencing where at least one person, typically the interpreter, is at a separate location. As a fee based service, VRI may be arranged through service contracts, rate plans based on per minute or per hour fees, or charges based on individual usage. VRI can be provided as an on-demand service and/or by appointment. Unlike video relay service (VRS), video remote interpreting is not regulated by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) or other telecommunications legislation. Video remote interpreting is currently used in a variety of settings including but not limited to medical, educational, legal and mental health. Each setting is discussed in depth through linked documents accessible electronically by clicking on settings above.

Successful VRI sessions use qualified sign language interpreters who have linguistic competence, are experienced in settings for which they will work, and adhere to professional interpreting standards. Additionally, successful VRI sessions have shared understanding of the benefits and limitations of VRI, common elements of established meeting preparation protocols, training regarding equipment and videoconferencing protocols, effective environmental controls, and compatibility of technical set-up
and connectivity.

Benefits and Limitations

When used appropriately, VRI has several benefits such as “providing easier and faster access to communication, access to quality services, and effective use of fiscal resources.”1 VRI provides communication access for situations with an immediate need for interpreters; in addition, it meets interpreting demands when qualified onsite interpreters are not available, especially in rural areas where qualified interpreters are less accessible. VRI can reduce interpreting costs through fee structures and elimination of travel and mileage costs.

While providing a viable option for interpreting services, VRI is not a comprehensive replacement for onsite interpreting. In order to assure that equal access is achieved, the decision to utilize VRI should be made with input from all participants. VRI may not be appropriate for:

  • Situations involving high interactivity, such as multiple participants with less structured turn-taking protocols;
  • Situations with complex dialogic exchange, such as abstract philosophical interchange or dialogue with veiled intentions or multiple meanings;
  • Situations involving communications of a sensitive nature;
  • Situations involving individuals with a secondary disability (e.g. low vision) that impedes their ability to utilize the technology.

In addition, Deaf interpreters (see Teaming Section of this paper) are recommended for situations involving young children, foreign-born individuals, and those who have underdeveloped language or who use idiosyncratic language patterns.

Readiness Protocol

VRI sessions require explicit content, technical and environmental preparation by those involved. Interpreters and participants should be educated in VRI protocols and equipment. Videoconferencing protocol training is widely available and encouraged.2 Additionally, those participating in VRI sessions should obtain as much training and education about their respective video and audio equipment as possible via onsite or remote instruction, or self-paced learning.

As with onsite interpreting, VRI interpreting requires preparation by the interpreter to maintain quality standards. Preparation is needed for both appointment-based and on-demand services. The amount and type of preparation is dependent on the nature of the assignment and the interpreter’s pre-existing knowledge base. To prepare for a VRI session, meeting organizers and participants analyze for appropriateness of VRI, as well as environmental and technical preparations as discussed in sections below.


VRI sessions are successful when participants and interpreters have a shared knowledge of session content. Familiarity with topic and content leads to effective communication. Prior to a VRI session, relevant personnel share content information with the interpreter(s) through teleconference sessions, e-mail correspondence, faxed information or other means. Interpreter access to VRI session topic and content is advantageous for both appointment-based and on-demand VRI services.


VRI uses videoconferencing equipment over high-speed broadband connections or ISDN lines carrying both video and audio messages. Equipment is paired with wired or wireless connections. VRI sessions can be conducted via Internet, Intranet or ISDN. As technology evolves, additional connection types may become available.

In terms of equipment, there are two kinds of VRI providers: those that recommend or endorse certain kinds of equipment that can be purchased and used by the receiving institutions and those that configure and sell a specific equipment package to be used by the receiving institution. Additional technical information is cited in the References Section of this paper.

Due to its videoconferencing nature, VRI sessions require technical familiarization by those involved. An extensive collaboration from the receiving institution’s information technology department or videoconferencing department must be established and onsite technical support staff must be identified.

Sufficient lead-time is required to arrange the many technical aspects and logistics involved in VRI services. Equipment must be tested allowing ample time to ensure that the connection provides for clear reception at all sites. Prior to troubleshooting equipment, participants should understand equipment and connection type. Many entities using VRI have access to technical personnel for initial set-up and working sessions. Generally, technical support is available from the VRI provider and tends to be located offsite.

Prior to and during VRI sessions, an individual with a current knowledge of video and audio connections, IP settings, hardware arrangements and software configurations should be immediately available. Session testing provides quality assurance for bandwidth, video and audio clarity and maintenance of connection. Interpreters and participants may need to troubleshoot technical issues before and during an interpreted session.

Environmental Controls

Environments suitable for traditional onsite interpreting may not be appropriate for VRI. Effective management of environmental demands by all parties will help facilitate an acceptable provision of interpreting services. Environmental demands that may affect the VRI session include:

  • lighting
  • seating arrangements or sight lines to each video screen
  • location of cameras
  • location of consumers in relationship to each other and to each camera
  • use of microphones
  • background movements
  • environmental noise
  • clothing colors and patterns
  • interpreter or participant idiosyncrasies

The Role of the Interpreter


While adhering to the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct, interpreters working in VRI settings should also be qualified, having linguistic competence as well as a current understanding of the interpreting profession. High levels of skill, experience and professionalism are necessary for managing the varied content of VRI sessions. RID recommends that VRI providers develop hiring practices that ensure the highest quality interpreting services.

Standard practices of video remote interpreting sessions reflect traditional interpreting principles:

  • Consistent use of qualified interpreters with appropriate skills and credentials for the setting;
  • Appropriate length of time for interpreting segments in order to retain quality measurements;
  • Use of interpreting protocols for team interpreting including use of Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) when needed for effective communication.


Remote interpreting causes interpreter fatigue more rapidly than with traditional face-to-face interpreting. 3 While this paper references remote spoken language interpreting, video interpreters should employ self-care techniques to guard against overuse injuries and burnout. Fatigue factors affect the quality of the interpretation, requiring shorter lengths of time interpreting prior to alternating interpreters. If an interpreter is working alone, it may be necessary to arrange frequent rest breaks. The RID
Team Interpreting Standard Practice Paper cites rationale for team interpreting including factors such as length and/or complexity of the assignment, unique needs of the persons being served, and physical and emotional dynamics of the setting.

At times, there is a need for the addition of a Deaf interpreter. According to the RID Certified Deaf Interpreter Standard Practice Paper, Deaf interpreters are used for special communication challenges such as when idiosyncratic signs are used, when there is a deaf-blind consumer, or when the consumer has minimal or limited communication skills. See the RID Standard Practice Paper, Use of a Certified Deaf Interpreter, for additional information.


Interpreting skill sets needed for VRI are setting dependent. See the Medical, Educational, Legal and Mental Health Sections of this VRI Standard Practice Paper for additional information. Interpreters should have the needed certifications, experience and skills needed for settings worked. They may need to have specialized skill sets and vocabulary to be qualified for specific settings.


Many states have licensing statutes that limit interpretation in the state to those who hold specific qualifications and/or who have registered with a state licensing entity. If an interpreter located in one state is providing remote interpreting services in another state, the interpreter may need to comply with the licensing or registration provisions of both states. If both the deaf party and the hearing party are located in separate states, then there is a chance the interpreter will need to adhere to the licensing
statutes in multiple states. Some statutes have a waiver provision for short-term assignments (e.g., two weeks per year), and at least one state has a provision allowing remotely interpreted assignments to be interpreted by non-licensed individuals.4


It is important to understand the differences between video remote interpreting (VRI) and video relay service (VRS) interpreting as well as the boundaries of using each of these services. Although both services are provided remotely, their purpose, requirements and uses differ. (See the RID VRS Standard Practice Paper for additional information.) Video remote interpreting is a viable form of interpreting with characteristics that are setting specific. The linked VRI setting discussions provide additional information for medical, educational, legal and mental health settings and give guidance when working in these settings.

VRI is not an absolute substitute for face-to-face interpreting. However, VRI can be used effectively by following guidelines set forth in this Standard Practice Paper, including the References Section, and by consulting with participants and other across cultures will improve services provided by interpreters in the VRS setting.

For further reading, check out RID’s Standard Practice Paper titled Video Remote Interpreting .