telecommunications tower

Telecommunications, TTY and Adaptive Telephones

With the passage of the ADA in 1990, came the requirement for nationwide relay services. The ADA defines relay services as telephone services that enable people who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have a speech impairment to communicate with a person who can hear in a manner that is "functionally equivalent" to the ability of an individual without a disability to communicate by telephone. (National Association of the Deaf) There are a wide range of services:


TTY or traditional relay service: Telephone conversations can be read via a TTY device's data terminal with a keyboard for text messages read by persons with deafness or hearing loss. TTYs generally consist of a keyboard and display screen.

Voice Carry Over (VCO): used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing but communicate by speech.

Hearing Carry Over (HCO): is for people using a TTY who have a speech disability.

Speech-to-Speech (STS): used by those who have a speech disability and wish to use the phone.

Non-English language services: available such as Spanish to Spanish.

Captioned Telephone Service (CTS): used with a captioned telephone. The user is able to read what the other person is saying via captions.

Video Relay Service (VRS): an internet-based system with video conferencing or video phones and used by people who sign. 

Internet Protocol Relay (IP Relay) Service: also an internet-based system for computer users who communicate using text.

Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS): an internet-based system for users who speak and listen over the phone, but   also read captions on the computer.


Relay services can be reached by simply dialing 7-1-1 from a telephone or TTY. This is available nationwide to access non-internet-based relay services. 


Read this fact sheet, Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) from the FCC for more information about these services.


Here is a Consumer Guide on Telecommunications Relay Service also from the FCC.


Access numbers for Speech to Speech (STS) service in your state.


Video Sample of Speech to Speech part 1 Video showcases the development and use of Speech to Speech.

Video Sample of Speech to Speech part 2


Against the Current, My Life with Cerebral Palsy by Bob Segalman, advocate for Speech to Speech phone services.


TDD/TTYs (and TTY software)

TTYs can be used with telephones, over PC modems, and with cellular telephones. Some support voice carry over (VCO) for those who wish to speak, and then read the typed responses sent from the other person. VCO also comes in portable versions to convert regular telephones. Of course, the most appropriate device is one that suits your budget and preferences, not just your needs. Be sure to see all the new equipment out in today's market before making a decision. Some products have pay plans worth considering, since they will be useful for many years to come. You deserve the best!


The Michigan Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MADHH) provides TTYs for eligible individuals who meet financial criteria. This project is a joint venture with local Lions Clubs and/or Service Foundations.  A wait up to 6 months may occur.


Clarity Shop by need on this site – mild to moderate hearing loss, moderate hearing loss and moderate to severe.  Carries TTYs, amplified corded and cordless phones, mobile phones and accessories, telephone ringers and more.


Deafworks carries TTY Trainers, TTY Screener, Paragon TTYs and accessories, and videophone products.


Hitec Group sells a variety of TTYs, some which print and others that don't. Some are compatible with cellular telephones and can be used by the traveler.  They also carry a model for those who wish to speak on the phone but read the words of the other party.


IDRT carries software (myTTY3.0) that allows computers to send and receive TTY calls and myTTY 3.0 Phone Messenger for myTTY 3.0 users.


TTY Adapter cable for iPhones connects the phone to a TTY machine. To set up your phone, tap the Settings icon -  Phone, turn on TTY.  Then connect the iPhone to the TTY machine using the adapter.  A TTY icon will appear in the status bar at the top of the screen.   


Ultratec sells a large variety of TTYs including ones for families that are a combination TTY and telephone, TTYs for emergency services that record the conversation, printing and non-printing TTYs and TTYs for public places.


Adaptive Telephones

Amplification devices help some persons with hearing loss, depending on the extent of the hearing loss. An inline amplifier is very versatile because it plugs into most telephone jacks through the curly cord and certain models are very powerful. Consumers benefit from additional features like tone control or variable ring sounds, flashing lights, and large dial buttons, or an audio jack to connect to an additional listening device. Audio jacks require an electrical outlet, as well as a telephone jack. Portable amplifiers, amplification handsets, or cordless amplified telephones also are handy. Be sure to check out a variety of devices to learn what is most useful to you.

The Hearing Aid Compatibility Act requires all phones to compatible with hearing aids. In 2003 rules were set for hearing aid compatibility of digital wireless phones.  To learn what makes a telephone compatible with a hearing aid, click here for the FCC's Guide.


FCC Consumer Guide: Hearing Aid Compatibility for Wireless Telephones


Telecoil is also called a t-switch or t-coil is a supplemental device for a hearing aid which enables the hearing aid to hear a magnetic signal which represents sound. Telephones that are hearing aid compatible (HAC) generate a magnetic signal.  To learn more, click here.  



AT&T lists hearing aid compatible phones.


Blazie carries cellular braille displays that connect to cell phones via USB or Bluetooth. 


Harris Communications has many items for deaf and hard of hearing including amplified corded and cordless telephones, headsets and telephone amplifiers.


Hatis headsets work with hearing aids and plug into telephones.  Signals travel to the small earpiece that rests on top of the ear to make your hearing aid a receiver of undistorted sound. Use this product with a hearing aid that has a t-Coil. Recommended for moderate to profound hearing loss. Hatis is compatible with nearly all cellular and cordless phones equipped with a 2.5 mm headset jack.


Krown Manufacturing carries a selection of amplified phones, TTYs, telephone signalers and student dorm kits. They also have a selection of refurbished equipment.


Maxi Aids products: amplified phones, ringers/flashers, portable phone amplifiers that connect between the handset and the phone base and accessories.


Phone Merchants: carries hearing impaired telephones and accessories, amplified headsets, signalers and alert systems.


Teltex: alerting systems, vibrating clocks, wide selection of TTYs and refurbished ones. 


Verizon lists hearing aid compatible phones.

National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) authorizes the FCC to provide funding for local programs to distribute equipment to low income individuals who are deaf-blind. This pilot program ends June 30, 2015. Information from the pilot will be used to help develop and implement an effective and efficient permanent deaf-blind equipment distribution program. Federal poverty guidelines are found by clicking this link.  Click to find the certified program in your state or call 888-225.5322 or 888.835.5322 TTY or send an email to .

Note: Infinitec Inc. does not endorse or recommend these products and has no liability for the results of their use. Infinitec Inc. has received no consideration of any type for featuring any product on this Web site. The information offered herein is a summary; it is not comprehensive and should be carefully evaluated by consumers with the assistance of qualified professionals. The intention of Infinitec Inc. is to offer consumers a brief overview of various assistive technology devices and their applications.