Interpreting agency comes up with new way to handle data

Originally appeared in Silent News, August 2001.

Trying to juggle names of deaf and hearing consumers, times, places, language preferences and information for over 100 interpreters can be a harrowing task. Add to that the factors of matching language preference to language skills, balancing schedules, and trying to maintain a specific standard of quality – it’s easy to see how a simple interpreting assignment can become very complicated for an agency.

An interpreting agency in the Washington, D.C. metro area has come up with an innovative way to address all these areas of providing interpreting services. “We wanted to create a system that would enhance the ability of customers to place requests, gain up-to-the-minute information and for interpreters to accept assignments with greater speed,” says Brandon Arthur, owner of Visual Language Interpreting (VLI).

Generally, interpreter agencies hire a number of schedulers whose jobs are to sit at the phone and coordinate interpreting assignment requests, matching consumer preferences with agency preferences in addition to matching interpreter skills to the job. That’s not an easy feat, and this type of job tends to have a high turnover rate. Arthur, who is a child of deaf adults, recognized this early in VLI’s history, and decided there had to be a better solution.

“VLI felt that an integrated website and web database would best suit the needs of our customers and interpreters,” he says. Customers and interpreters are able to log in at any time, 24 hours a day, and access the database. This database, according to Arthur, “gives customers the ability to place requests, access contact information, review the number of hours of service provided, verification of interpreters scheduled on current and previous assignments, and to check the status of placed requests.” Interpreters are also able to access personal contact information, completed assignments, current assignment information and the option of accepting available assignments.

“In the business of providing interpreters, timing and attention to detail is critical for a successful delivery of services to all parties involved,” states Arthur. “We wanted to create a system that would enhance the ability of customers to place requests, gain up-to-the-minute information and for interpreters to accept assignments with greater speed and efficiency.”

Another important part of the database is confidentiality, one of the basic tenets of the interpreting profession. Arthur has taken steps to ensure that confidentiality is maintained. “Each [person] is assigned an user-id and password, and the company hosting the database runs a variety of different security software to prevent any non-authorized person from entering the database.”

The database, created by a deaf-owned web development company familiar with the needs of an interpreting agency, promises to be useful and effective. Arthur says, “We feel this integrated system provides an enhanced level of customer service and improved service delivery.”

VLI, an interpreting agency located in Arlington, Va., was founded in 1999 in an effort to raise the standard of interpreting services in the Washington, D.C. area. VLI hires only certified interpreters and currently employs over 110 interpreters. Their website is at www.vli-dc.com.

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