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Being Seen, Heard and Understood

When it comes to audiovisual technology, it’s all about sight and sound. To make the most of both, InfoComm estimates companies, governments and educators invested USD $114 billion last year alone.

That’s a lot of money spent on being seen…being heard.

But, what about making sure someone can understand it all?

It’s an important question to our many audiovisual clients who make up the country’s federal, state and local courts. In their world, comprehension is king…and queen.

While understanding courtroom proceedings can be difficult (which is why they invented lawyers), it is especially daunting for those with limited English proficiency.

The Migration Policy Institute estimates 8 percent of the U.S. population (above the age of 5) has limited English proficiency – about 25 million people. For our U.S. District Courts alone, this translated into utilizing interpreters 330,607 times – in just one year. Representing 117 languages. Not only are courts using these interpreters, but legal firms are racking up the costs with their usage. Legal firms have the possibility of using phone interpreter services which makes the whole process easier than courts, who require interpreters to be on-site.

Interpreters are required in federal courts, but not in all state courts and in very few lower-level courts. Courts provide and pay for interpreters. However, with tight budgets, having enough certified interpreters to be wherever, whenever, is a significant and costly problem.

As reported on PBS Newshour, this is putting justice at risk. In its report, PBS noted a Virginia courtroom where a man, who spoke predominantly Spanish, was accused of running a red light. As his interpreter informed him of the charges, the accused shouted back in Spanish, “I didn’t rape anybody!”

His interpreter told him he was accused of a “violación.” In Spanish, that means “rape” not “violation.” The interpreter should have used the word “infracción.”

Which brings us back to the question: With all of this spending on being seen and heard, what’s being done so people can understand and be understood?

At ExhibitOne, we have an answer: VCIS – Virtual Court-Interpreter System. VCIS is a patented integration of technology that enables courtroom interpreters to stay in one location as they handle interpretation needs in different courtrooms/court buildings. The system includes both audio and video technology, which enables the interpreter to not only hear the words being spoken but to take those words in context with facial expressions, inflections and other forms of body language which are important to the process.

Having received an award from the National Association of Counties and being used by one of the largest court systems in the country, VCIS provides a lot of big wins:

  1. Interpreters can assist in more cases

  2. Courts reduce interpreter-related costs, including travel-related expenses

  3. Cases are handled more efficiently

  4. Defendants and the court consistently use properly qualified interpreters

For most people, being seen and being heard is good enough. But, for those serving people with limited English proficiency who strive to understand and be understood – there’s VCIS.


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