Video Relay Service Interpreting: Interpreters’ Authority, Agency, and Autonomy in the Process of Ethical Decision Making


Kathleen C. Holcombe

Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies

Western Oregon University

June 3, 2014

The accumulated literature on signed language interpreting implies that despite the emerging conceptualization of signed language interpreting as a practice profession applying teleological ethics, interpreters struggle to abandon the perception of strict role constructs governed by deontological ethical decision making. The goal of this study is to gain insight into the ethical decision making process amongst a sample of video relay interpreters using the reflective practice of supervision applying demand control schema.

The findings suggest the existence of both teleological and deontological ethical decision making approaches for the practice of interpreting in the video relay setting. The findings also demonstrated participants’ lack of agency that impacted the prominent gap between a practice professionalism perspective and technical skill orientation among VRS interpreters. The participants’ application of teleological ethics suggests an awareness of various controls to achieve effective outcomes and develop strategies to improve practice. The participants’ lack of agency suggests serious deleterious implications for callers and interpreters. An argument is made for interpreters to become functional leaders in acknowledging the apparent relationship between stress, conditions of VRS employment, and effective service as a beneficial means of guiding improved practice.

Exit Requirement


Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies

Committee Chair

Amanda R. Smith

Committee Member

Elisa Maroney

Committee Member

Campbell McDermid


ASL, American Sign Language, video relay service, demand control schema, ethical decision making, interpreting



Type (DCMI Terms)


Subject Categories

Education | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures

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