As mobile phones become more and more widespread, technology manufacturers continue to explore ways in which these devices can be used by people with hearing impairments. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, a conventional mobile phone may not be a practical option. Teletypewriter (or TTY mode) is a form of technology used in mobile phones that is intended to help people with hearing impairments use these devices. Learn more about how TTY mode is used on a cell phone with these key facts.
What TTY mode does
TTY mode allows people with hearing impairments to communicate using a cell phone and compatible device. Not all cell phones are capable of functioning in TTY mode, so check the owner's manual or confirm with the retailer before purchasing a handset. The process is very simple. As the deaf caller types a message in text format, the TTY device converts the text to audio so that the person on the other end hears the message in a spoken format. If and when the recipient then responds, TTY mode converts the conversation the other way, too, changing the audio message to a text format.
Requirements for TTY mode
To use TTY mode, you must have a TTY-compatible handset. The handset must have a 2.5mm headphone jack, so that a compatible TTY device can be plugged into the handset. You should also ensure that your carrier or network provider supports TTY mode. In previous years, TTY services over the traditional telephone network were available only in certain states. This changed in 1990, when a law was passed to make TTY relay services available across the entire United States. The law applied to landlines only, however; on a cell phone, you are still dependent on your network to support TTY relay services in your area.
The nature of TTY relay means that it can be quite difficult for two users to have a sensible conversation. If you are unable to tell when one person has finished 'speaking,' the audio responses could overwrite one another and the conversation could become confused. As such, users normally type GA (short for go ahead) when it is the other person's turn to speak or reply. Users can also signal the end of a conversation by typing SK (stop keying) so that they know that they are not cutting the other person off halfway through a response.
Alternatives to TTY mode
Of course, modern technology now means that the hearing-impaired have a number of other options. The advent of instant messaging means that conversations can be managed easily via a computer or laptop. TTY mode, however, may still be required in an emergency (for example, in the event of a power failure), so users for whom the technology is relevant should retain TTY equipment.