Deaf Communication

There are different ways of communicating with deaf people. This page explains some of the methods and technologies geared towards deaf communication:

TDD - (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf)

Q90D TTYTDD is an electronic device for text communication via a telephone line, used when one or more of the parties has hearing or speech difficulties. Other names for TDD include TTY (telephone typewriter or teletypewriter), text telephone or textphone (common in Europe) and minicom (United Kingdom). The typical TDD is a device about the size of a small laptop computer with a standard keyboard and small screen to display typed text electronically. In addition, TDDs commonly have a small spool of paper on which text is also printed. The text is transmitted live, via a telephone line, to a compatible device, i.e. one that uses a similar communication protocol. In certain countries there are Telecommunications Relay Services, so that a deaf person can communicate with a hearing person on an ordinary voice phone using a human relay operator. There are also "carry-over" services, enabling people who can hear but cannot speak ("hearing carry-over"), or people who cannot hear but are able to speak ("voice carry-over") to use the telephone. - Source: Wikipedia

At Assistech we offer a large selection of TTY telephones.
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VCO Telephone by Clarity/AmeriphoneVoice Carry Over

The next most common call type is Voice Carry Over (VCO). VCO allows a person who is Hard-of-Hearing or Deaf and does speak to use one's voice while receiving responses from a person who is Hearing via the operator's typed text. There are many variations of VCO, including 2-Line VCO and VCO with privacy. - Source: Wikipedia

Captioned Telephones

CapTel 800i TelephoneA new method for people who are Hard-of-Hearing, Oral Deaf or Late–Deafened to make phone calls is called a captioned telephone (also called captioned relay or CapTel). It is a telephone that displays real-time captions of the current conversation. The captions are typically displayed on a screen embedded into the telephone base. A captioned telephone may also be called a CapTel, which is the main brand name for a captioned telephone. A CapTel can also function exactly like a VCO by switching the device to VCO mode, for example, to communicate with an HCO user directly, without relay. - Source: Wikipedia. Now available: Ensemble

Video Conferencing

Anyone who prefers to make telephone calls using sign language and the Internet can use IP Video Relay Service (IP-VRS). Using a Video Interpreter and web camera you can communicate with voice telephone users in your preferred language, which is most natural for you. It's simple. You sign to the Video Interpreter who voices your conversation to the voice user, then signs the voice user's conversation back to you. Video Interpreters are professionally trained and certified by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD IV & V) or the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID CI-CT-CSC). Also, they are required to follow the NAD/RID Code of Ethics, so your calls are always confidential.

When using IP-VRS, there is no charge for making local or long distance calls anywhere in the world as long as the hearing person communicates in English. Calls to 900/976 services are not permitted through IP-VRS. - Source:

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IP Relay Quick Connect

This is the fastest and easiest way to place calls from your cell phone or over the Internet. You can connect instantly from your PC, make multiple calls, choose between split or single screen view, even print and save conversations. Calls are free to anywhere in the U.S. - Source:

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My IP Relay

With IP Relay you can place calls through instant messaging, such as AOL Instant Messenger. This is a simple, easy, and convenient way of connecting through your PC or wireless device (such as Sidekicks). Simply click on My IP Relay and type the phone number. Calls are free to anywhere in the U.S. - Source:

Find out how to use My IP Relay

T-Mobile Sidekick

T-Mobile SidekickThis text-based communications medium, along with on-device email and a full QWERTY keyboard, made it popular with the deaf community, providing a telecommunications tool for use both inside and outside the home. Access to direct TTY and Relay Operator communications has allowed the Hiptop/T-Mobile Sidekick and similar devices to, in many cases, replace the use of standard TTY/TDD machines... T-Mobile's decision to offer a "data only" wireless plan, thereby eliminating charges for unusable voice minutes, also played a role in the device's dominance in the deaf community. - Source: Wikipedia

Other Deaf Communication Methods:

American Sign Language

ABC SignsAmerican Sign Language, also called ASL, is a language of hand gestures and facial expressions that help deaf or hard of hearing individuals communicate with one another. ASL is a system of signing where thoughts and expressions are represented by signs rather than having a sign to represent every word.

ASL is used throughout the United States and in some areas of Canada. Many countries have their own form of sign language, and more often than not, signs from different countries do not resemble each other.

Visit ASL Pro for a completely free online ASL educational resource website featuring over 11000 ASL signs, including video dictionaries, fingerspell quizzes, and more! For a brief history of ASL, signing etiquette and examples of ASL phrases, go to ABC's of ASL.

Source: University of Florida

Cued Speech

Cued speech is a sound-based visual communication system. It uses eight different hand shapes in four placements around or near the face and mouth movements to combine the sound of cueing to make the phonemes of the spoken language differ.

Real-Time Captioning

Electronic LED display captioning Electronic LED display captioning

Kieron Smith in "United!", Best Red & Vanessa Ford Productions, Gateway Theatre, Chester, England.

"To Kill a Mockingbird", Clwyd Thatr Cymru production - Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, England Photos by StageText

“Real-time captioning,” also called “computer-assisted real-time translation” (CART) is a fairly new service for communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The transcriber takes down the speaker's words using either a stenography machine or a computer. Almost immediately, the words appear in text on a screen so the deaf person can “read” what the speaker is saying. This service is useful for people who can read and understand English.


Pen and Paper

When other methods are not readily available, note-taking (or similar variants) may be an option for communicating with the Deaf. The US Department of Justice's website lists examples of oral communication that businesses may use when interacting with their customers:

For short, simple conversations, most businesses can successfully communicate with a customer who is deaf or hard of hearing by using gestures and notes.

For standardized tours and similar activities, businesses can provide a printed transcript of the words that are usually spoken, so the customer can follow along during the tour.

Source: US Department of Justice: Communicating with Customers Who Have Disabilities

By law, US businesses (regardless of size) must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (also Known as ADA). Learn more about ADA.

At Assistech we provide a complete line of ADA compliant products for your business needs.

Helpful Links:

Methods of Communication with the Deaf (Overview)
Products for Deaf Communication

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