Options for the Deaf

For the Deaf, those with Profound Hearing Loss, and those with Speech Impairment there are alternative options to the standard Telephone, the most prevalent being the TeleTYpewriter (TTY).

UltraTec 1140, a VCO/TTY/HCO Telecommunications Device


Through a TTY a conversation can be partially or completely typed rather than spoken. TTY can only communicate directly with phone lines equipped with similar devices but a Telecommunications Relay Service is available to act as an intermediary allowing TTY users to contact to non-TTY Telephones. Teletypewriters do not require special Telephone equipment or installation.

Telecommunications Relay Service

Telecommunications Relay Services provide a number of services to users of TTYs by offering the intermediary aid of a Communications Assistant. Generally, Telecommunications Relay Services are available 24 hours a day with no restriction on length or number of calls placed. Telecommunication Relay Services are provided by State, to find your state’s toll-free TSR number check the Telecommunications Relay Services Directory.

Communication Assistant

Telecommunicaitons Relay Services are operated in a similar way to live Television Captioning Services. A Communications Assistant (also known as a Relay Operator) transcribes or vocalizes information as necessary. All relay calls are strictly confidential under penalty of federal law.

TTY to Voice/Voice to TTY

The standard TRS is TTY to Voice/Voice to TTY calls. Often labeled Voice, these are calls between a person using a TTY and a person using a normal Telephone. In this type of call, the Communication Assistant relays typed messages as voice messages and voice messages back as typed messages. Using this method the TTY user only sends and recieves text.

It is standard to type "GA" or say "Go Ahead" to indicate when outgoing communication ceases; this helps to prevent interuption from confusing the Communication Assistant. "SK" is code for "Stop Keying" which indicates to the Communications Assistant that the call is ended and that they should hang up.

Voice and Hearing Carry Over

A common TRS is Voice Carry Over (VCO). VCO is a call between a person using a TTY who can speak and a person using a normal Telephone. In this type of call, the TTY Caller uses their own voice and Communication Assistant relays the normal Telephone user’s words as text.

A less used TRS is Hearing Carry Over (HCO). HCO is designed for people with Speech Disabilities. HCO is a call between a person using a TTY who cannot speak understandably to use their own hearing while the Communication Assistant relays the TTY users text as users to the user of the normal Telephone.

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