Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has added video relay services (VRS) to its Portal video-calling devices, enabling users to bring in sign language interpreters in English or Spanish during video talks. The new feature results from a partnership with ZP Better Together, a technology company that specializes in communication solutions for Deaf and hard-of-hearing customers.
According to Meta spokesperson Lisa Auslen, customers will need to apply for a ZP account to establish their eligibility for the service, which the federal government finances under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The service and the Portal devices are provided free of charge to people who qualify; they must be VRS users in the United States of America who communicate using ASL.
Once users have a ZP account and a Portal, they can utilize the ASL interpreting service via ZP’s apps available in the Portal App Store. The interpreters, who show on-screen during Portal calls, are available 24 hours a day, the business claimed in a news release. Although video conferencing systems such as Microsoft’s Teams and Zoom include closed captioning, nuance in talks might be lost without a sign language interpreter giving tone and context. Additionally, as Meta points out, sign language is the primary language of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Thus the addition adds a new layer of accessibility to Portal calls.