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Vermont Interpreter Referral Service Running Again

December 4, 2014

The Vermont Interpreter Referral Service is back in business, much to the delight of everyone trying to communicate with people who use American Sign Language.

It is now operating as a program of the Vermont Center for Independent Living, a statewide nonprofit organization working to promote the dignity, independence and civil rights of Vermonters with disabilities. VIRS is being housed at VCIL’s Brattleboro office at 28 Vernon St.

VIRS had to shut its doors in September due to the abrupt closing of its parent organization, the Vermont Center for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing. The absence of the referral service left a huge gap in the lives of people who depend on sign language to communicate.

VIRS Program Coordinator Nancy Groff and Program Specialist Bridget McBride are thrilled to be back at work, providing sign language interpreter referral services throughout the state for service providers and their Deaf consumers or clients. Groff said, “For Deaf folks not to be able to access interpreter services for even a month is a month too long. VIRS also provides advocacy, explaining to requesters their obligation to provide equal access to communication under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — this advocacy was sorely missed.”

Missy Boothroyd, VCIL’s Deaf Independence Coordinator, was profoundly impacted by the closing of VIRS. She had to scramble to try to schedule interpreters during the time that VIRS was closed. Boothroyd said, “They do such an amazing job. VIRS really means a lot to the community, not just the Deaf community but to any agency such as police departments and doctor’s offices.”

VCIL Executive Director Sarah Launderville said, “We saw a real impact when the service was shut down, including people not having proper accommodations because business owners were not able to locate an interpreter. We wanted to help immediately and feel proud to have been chosen as the organization that is taking on this very important program.”

Launderville added, “This week, we held the first of many VIRS Advisory Committee meetings that will be made up of volunteers of ASL interpreters and members of the deaf community. The help of these volunteers in building the program back up is very valuable and appreciative.”

One of the many unfortunate aspects of the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing closing was the loss of access to a community fund that provides free ASL services for non-ADA related events such as weddings and funerals. VCIL is seeking donations to replenish that fund. Donations can be made to the Vermont Center for Independent Living, attention: the Yolanda Henry Community Fund.

How to Contact VIRS

Hiring a sign language interpreter in Vermont is easy, thanks to VIRS. There are a number of ways to contact the program:

  • Go to their website, virs.org, and at the top of the page, you will see “Request an Interpreter.” Click on this link and fill out the form that comes up.
  • Call VIRS at 802-254-3920 and make the request over the phone, providing the date of the event, and the start time and end time; the physical location (full address); the name of the Deaf consumer(s); the nature of the event (one-on-one meeting or a training or a medical appointment); the other participants’ names, if applicable; and the billing address.
  • Email VIRS at virs@sover.net, Nancy Groff at ngroff@vcil.org or Bridget McBride at bmcbride@vcil.org
  • If you are Deaf, you can make your request via videophone: 802-275-0104.