deaf, hard of hearing, 999, TTY, HOH, TDD


Telecommunication technology has significantly changed the communication landscape for deaf and hearing impaired (HOH – Hard of Hearing) individuals. For more than 40 years, text telephones (TTY) and amplified phones were their only options. Today, videophones, Smartphones, and instant messaging most often replace the TTY as preferred communication tools.

Roughly 600,000 people in the United States are “functionally” deaf according to  I, myself, am not classified but am 100% deaf in my right ear and have severe hearing loss in my left from contracting a virus 6 years ago.  The creation of this blog post is to share general information and to review practical applications.

The TTY (TeleTYpe), TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf), and TT (Text Telephone) acronyms are used interchangeably to refer to any type of text-based telecommunications equipment used by a person who does not have enough functional hearing to understand speech, even with amplification.

In 1964, Robert Weitbrecht, a deaf electronic scientist, developed an acoustic coupler that converted sounds into text. Signals received by a standard telephone handset placed on a coupler were translated into a printed text message by the teletype machine. A flashing light alerted the deaf person receiving a call that the phone was ringing. Access to this telecommunications device, also called a "TTY" or "TDD," meant deaf people could place a phone call to a friend, a club, or anyone who also had a TTY. Before TTYs, deaf people had to go in person to see if friends were home, make appointments, or do any of the things hearing people did effortlessly by phone. For deaf people, TTYs became a tool for change.

Like today’s cellular texting there are “short cuts” … TTY technology use this method starting back in the 1970’s.  For ex: “GA” – “Go ahead” or “It’s your turn” because the system worked over pots lines and two-way simultaneous communication was not available.
Fast forward to today:
With cellular units and texting communication accessibility combined with visual communication for the deaf and hard of hearing has become easier.  With programs such as WhatsApp - lip reading is possible however, according to the NDC – National Deaf Center, only about 30% of English speak sounds are visible under the best of conditions in the best environments with no visual distractions.
  • Open Market Video Calling Software: Due to the user restrictions placed on videophones, deaf and hearing individuals often use Skype, FaceTime, Fuze along with a myriad other video calling software applications available to converse in real time.
  • Open Market Texting Software: In addition to taking advantage of current mobile phone texting capabilities, sign language users are increasingly using software programs such as YouTube and Glide to “text” messages in sign language.
911 (United States and Canada) – texting is advancing with E911- location services attached to the number called from.  This system isn’t 100% perfect within the United States and location identification is not available in all areas.

Did you know???
999 began in 1937 and today is available in 25 countries (unfortunately the United States is NOT included) – For the deaf and hearing impaired this has evolved into a texting emergency services for registered cellular units and TTY connected units.

Countries and territories using 999 include:
Telecommunication has progressed by leaps and bounds during the past 40 years but there is a long way to go for the deaf and hearing impaired.

Corcentric specializes in supporting telecommunication connectivity for the healthcare and manufacturing amongst other industries. These two niche sectors combined with telecommunication carrier and cloud-based application providers open the world of communication for the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired individuals, communities, and businesses.

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Tami Wankoff - Procurement Consultant

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