I love hearing customers talk how they’ve conquered communications challenges using our technology. It’s exciting to be a key part of their journeys and successes. A recent conversation with such a customer affected me in a powerful and personal way that I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

It was late afternoon at a recent technology trade show. Booth traffic was lighter as attendees headed toward a reception to wrap up a long, information-packed day. I was mentally massaging my aching “trade-show” feet and thinking about a research-paper topic for the American Sign Language (ASL) class that my daughter and I are taking at our local community college. A customer strolled up to ask about our latest portfolio enhancements, and thus began our extraordinary conversation.

He shared how his organization comprises a group of companies that deliver network-based interpretation services for different types of clients. His team provides “in-person” ASL interpretation through a video-relay-service (VRS) using Cisco collaboration technologies.

The organization offers the service to registered deaf and hard of hearing clients across North America. It uses Cisco video conferencing solutions.

I couldn’t believe the timing of the conversation, and shared how I was learning ASL to become an interpreter. From that point, the conversation was a learning adventure for me.

“Today, VRS companies like ours provide hearing-loss individuals with a no-cost video-conferencing service and video endpoint that enables them to communicate in visual calls with our certified ASL interpreters,” he explained. “All our clients need to provide is a high-speed Internet connection; we provide the rest. For our VRS users, their conversations flow much more smoothly, naturally, and faster through face-to-face, signed interactions. As a result, hearing-loss individuals are able to live more connected and independent lives as they have visual contact with the people who can help them by communicating in their known language – in this case, sign language.”

VRS is primarily funded by a variety of U.S. Federal Government programs that support tens of thousands of registered deaf and hard-of-hearing people with interpretation services every year.

“Our company currently has over 20 call centers around the United States that take in hundreds, sometimes thousands of calls per day,” he said. “Each of our centers is staffed by qualified ASL video interpreters. Some are regular employees, many more are volunteers giving their time to staff the banks of video phones set-up across the sites. VRS is a critical, sometimes life-saving, resource for people with hearing loss, and we want to be there for them.”

As the lights dimmed on the tradeshow floor, I asked, “So, where is VRS headed?” He smiled and said, “Wherever telecommunications providers take their high-speed Internet services, we’ll take our VRS to those who need it. After all, isn’t that what true collaboration is all about?”

I couldn’t agree more.

As I shut down my demo station for the night, I felt the impact of this customer’s story in a powerful and personal way. I now understood the power of Cisco Collaboration technology in a new way — and how it is removing communications barriers for everyone, everywhere. Somehow, my feet didn’t feel quite so achy any longer. And I had found the topic for my ASL research paper, or rather it had found me, and I could hardly wait to get back to my room and get started.


Kim Littleton

Product Marketing Manager

UC & Collaboration Infrastructure