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Telecommunication Options for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Telecommunication has been evolving since its inception in the 1870s. One telephone land line used to be shared by several households and now many households are abandoning the traditional land line and opting to purchase a cell phone for every member of the home. Telephones, by necessity, require that an individual be able to hear as the purpose of the phone is to allow individuals to communicate vocally over long distances. So then, is it possible for those who are hard of hearing to use the phone? Absolutely. Innovations have been made that allow for individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf to utilize new technology to communicate over phone lines. Three primary options exist for deaf and hard of hearing telephone communication.

TTY The TTY, sometimes referred to as TDD, is a telephone accessory that features a cradle for the telephone receiver and a keyboard and was one of the first devices available to the deaf and hard of hearing communities. To place a call you set the receiver in the cradle and type your conversation on the keyboard. The message is transmitted over the phone line and is converted to text on the other side for the person you are calling who also needs to have a TTY attached to their phone. There is a slight hindrance here because a TTY is required at both ends of the conversation. To solve the problem, services have been set up that allow for relay services. A person that is hearing can call the service, who has a TTY, and the service will then call the individual who is hard of hearing, who also has a TTY. The relay service will then do the typing for the individual who can hear but doesn’t have their own TTY.

Video Relay With the advent of the web cam came the option for Video Relay Services. Certified interpreters work for a call service where those who are hard of hearing can call in and communicate with American Sign Language. The service works similarly to those used for TTY. The person who is hard of hearing calls the relay service and is connected via web cam to the interpreter. The interpreter then places a voice call to the desired recipient and provides translation services for both callers. For those of us who are hearing and are unfamiliar with how relay services work, each time you find yourself speaking to an interpreter or relay agent, you should remember that your conversation is not with that person, but the person for whom they are interpreting. You should speak as if you are directly

communicating to the person who called you. The interpreter is required to translate exactly and it is awkward to say ‘Tell them that I went to the bank.’ Instead of ‘I went to the bank today.’

Caption Call The final option is fairly new on the market and provides relay services without needing to directly communicate with a relay or translation agent. Caption call phones are designed using the same technology as closed caption services for television. Special phones for the hard of hearing are purchased and connected to your land line and highspeed internet. When a call is placed to that line from any phone the sound is relayed over the internet to a caption call service and the spoken message appears as text in a display on the phone almost instantly. The person using the caption call phone is then able to speak directly into a receiver to be heard by the individual on the other end. Whether you prefer video relay or text communication, the options for deaf and hard of hearing telecommunication is definitely much broader than it was even 20 years ago. For more information on deaf and hard of hearing phones visit

Telecommunication options for the deaf and hard of hearing  
Telecommunication options for the deaf and hard of hearing