Communication support

Best practice guidelines for video remote interpreting (VRI)

To support you, and help answer your questions about our video remote interpreting (VRI) service, we have produced these best practice guidelines.

Registered, qualified BSL interpreters – book with confidence

We only provide registered qualified British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters with a minimum of three years community experience. Interpreters must be registered with the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD), or the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI).

How to decide if remote interpreting is the best option

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased demand for VRI. However, video interpreting is not suitable for all situations and should not be seen as a complete replacement for face-to-face interpreting. Here’s what to consider when deciding if VRI is the best option:

  • Have all callers agreed to take part in the remote video assignment?
  • What is the likely speed of interaction, and visual and acoustic quality of the call?
  • How will additional resources (presentations handouts, documents, videos etc) be accessed during the call?
  • What is the sensitivity of the content being discussed?

Situations where VRI is not appropriate

There are certain situations where VRI is unsuitable. These include:

  • police suspect/witness interviews
  • court hearings
  • psychiatric assessments
  • mental health tribunals
  • mental health discharge assessments
  • emergency mental health assessments that may involve a person being sectioned
  • tribunals or disciplinary meetings
  • immigration interviews
  • settings with multiple participants involving fast-paced exchanges and no formal structure, such as classroom teaching or board meetings
  • highly emotional or potentially volatile settings, including counselling or therapy sessions
  • assignments involving an additional disability, such as a visual impairment or learning disability.

When can an interpreter withdraw from a video call?

A BSL interpreter can decline or withdraw from a video call in the following circumstances:

  • A participant is abusive to the interpreter.
  • There is poor screen resolution or other technical issues.
  • A conflict of interest arises.
  • The subject matter is inappropriate, or becomes inappropriate during the video call.
  • A participant tells the interpreter they are pretending to be someone else and asks the interpreter to continue interpreting.

How to prepare for a video call

Provide any background material to our Communication Support team before the assignment so it can be passed to the interpreter in advance of the call.

  1. All participants have the right to know there is a BSL interpreter joining the call. The interpreter has a duty to make sure that hearing callers are aware that a third person (the interpreter) is privy to their conversation.
  2. Make sure the interpreter is aware of all participants at the start of the video call, including those out of sight of the camera. It may be necessary to lift the camera to show the interpreter where each participant is situated, or verbally introduce each person.
  3. When there are several people involved in the call, the chairperson should discuss with the interpreter how the meeting can be managed to allow the VRI to do their job effectively.
  4. Where a second interpreter is provided to take turns in interpreting, they should be introduced at the start of the assignment and appropriate pauses negotiated to allow for the interpreters to change over.
  5. There is likely to be some lag time when interpreting. It is good practice to highlight this at the start of the video call, to manage expectations and avoid any misunderstandings.

Protecting confidentiality on VRI calls

Video remote interpreters must adhere to the highest levels of confidentially, in accordance with their professional code of conduct:

  • They are should work in a quiet, secure area away from communal spaces to ensure total privacy.
  • They should make all participants immediately aware if the security and confidentiality of the call is compromised or at risk.
  • They are strictly prohibited from recording the video call.
  • They must respect the confidential nature of any information gained in the course of their professional activity, except in exceptional circumstances where there is a risk of harm to an individual or they have concerns about the welfare of a vulnerable adult or a child. Video remote interpreters should refer to the service provider’s protocols for raising an alert about a vulnerable person.

Working conditions for video remote interpreters

  • Breaks or changes of activity should be included in the interpreter’s working time.
  • The amount of screen time should be monitored and any periods of work at a particularly high pace or intensity, should also be taken into account.
  • Short, frequent breaks are more satisfactory than occasional, longer breaks. For example, a five to 10-minute break after 50 -60 minutes of continuous screen and/or keyboard work is likely to be better than a 15-minute break every two hours.
  • The interpreter’s work station should be set up to provide a comfortable and safe environment, away from distractions, with sufficient temperature regulation and air ventilation.
  • The workspace should have a desk, adjustable chair, computer, height-adjustable monitor, keyboard, mouse, microphone and headset, phone, and webcam.
  • The interpreter should be positioned in order to maximise the signing space on screen; the upper body should be centred on screen, with arms, hands and face clearly visible.
  • The webcam should be positioned directly in front of the interpreter at eye level.
  • The workplace should be free from visual distractions.
  • The background behind the interpreter should be a flat, neutral colour that contrasts with the clothes and skin tone of the interpreter.

Customer feedback

We welcome all customer feedback about our VRI services. Please contact


Further information

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