Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf

Have you ever wondered about the challenges that deaf people face on a daily basis? How difficult is it for the deaf community to communicate with others? Is it frustrating when a deaf person wants to communicate with someone who just can't understand what they are trying to say? Deafness is a challenge that people who are able to hear can never fully understand. How can the world help the deaf community to communicate? What kinds of telecommunication devices exist today for the deaf and hard of hearing?

Technology is always advancing and there are now many different devices that can help deaf people and those with hearing impairments to communicate with others. These devices help the deaf community to truly take part in everything the world has to offer. Captioned telephones and voice carry overs are both great telecommunication options for deaf people and people with hearing difficulties. More than 21 million Americans are challenged by hearing loss. The deaf community continues to grow with each new day. Deafness does not have to keep people isolated and stop them from communicating with others. Deaf people do not have to be only part of the deaf culture. These devices help deaf people to express themselves and actually have others understand everything they are trying to say. Telecommunication devices can also help with deaf education. These devices are available in colleges and can help with deaf education in other educational institutions as well. Thanks to these devices a whole new world has been opened up to the deaf culture.


TDD actually stands for a “telecommunication device for the deaf.” A TDD is a teleprinter. It is an electronic device which aids people with hearing or speech difficulties with communication through text and telephone lines. There are several other names that can be used for this device such as a TTY, textphone (commonly used in Europe), teletypewriter and minicom (commonly used in the United Kingdom). The average TDD is similar in size to a small laptop computer and has a QWERTY keyboard. It also has a small display screen that shows the text. TDD's also often have a small paper spool where the text is also printed. Text can be transmitted from one TDD device to another via phone lines or it can still be used when only one person has a TDD. If a deaf person with a TDD calls someone who does not have a TDD, a TDD message relay (answering service) is needed. In this three person arrangement, the dual party operator actually utilizes two telephones where one is used in conjunction with a TDD in order to finish the call. For example, a person with a TDD uses the device to send a message to the relay service who then reads the message. The service uses a second telephone to call the intended party and repeats the message by voice to the recipient. This is truly a great device for use with deaf education.

Voice Carry Over

Another popular calling method for the deaf or hearing impaired who can speak is referred to as a Voice Carry Over or VCO. The caller's voice is directly “carried” to the recipient. It allows a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to speak with their voice to someone who is able to hear. A Relay Operator is necessary for this method of calling. The operator types all of the hearing person's words which then appear as text on the TDD screen for the deaf or hearing impaired person to view and respond to. This method is great for the deaf culture but is really best for deaf people who can speak.

Captioned Telephones

What exactly is a captioned telephone? It is a special kind of telephone that features a built-in screen to display everything that is said by the other person on the call. Captioned telephones are also called CapTel phones which are manufactured by Ultratrec. If you have a captioned telephone you simply begin by dialing the person's number whom you wish to call. When you dial the CapTel phone will automatically connect to a captioning service. Once the person you called answers, you can hear everything the person says if you are able to hear. As the person you called speaks, the caption service transcribes everything the person says into captions. These captions will then appear on your CapTel display screen.

Other Telecommunication Devices

Deafness does not have to cut people off from the world. There are other telecommunication devices that are available to help the deaf communicate. T-Mobile Sidekicks are cellphones which have become popular with the deaf community. The phone has a keyboard which makes texting quick and easy. Video conferencing is now an option for the deaf with an IP Video Relay Service utilizing a Video Interpreter.