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Text Phones for the Deaf

  • Published: 2009-01-20 (Rev. 2013-11-10) - Contact: Matt
  • Synopsis: Review of currently available text phones and cell phones for the deaf and hearing impaired.

Main Document

"There has been a break-through that may just enable real-time-text exchange for the hearing and speech impaired on all mobile phones."

There are approximately 70 million deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired people worldwide. All of which could not use phones to communicate until recently. This article reviews some of the available home phones and cell phones that cater for the hearing impaired.

There are approximately 70 million deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech-impaired people worldwide.

What is a Text Phone

A telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) is an electronic device for text communication via a telephone line, used when one or more of the parties has hearing or speech difficulties. The typical TDD is a device about the size of a small laptop computer with a QWERTY keyboard and small screen that uses LEDs or an LCD screen to display typed text electronically. A new development called the captioned telephone, now utilizes voice recognition. Newer text based communication methods, such as short message service (SMS), Internet relay chat (IRC), and instant messaging have also been adopted by the deaf as an alternative or adjunct to TDD.

Unfortunately using a home phone or cell phone that enabled the hearing impaired to communicate was not an option until recently.

There are also corded phones, or home phones, that offer text messaging, some of them may also contain other features that can be profitable by the hearing impaired or completely deaf. Such as:

Send and receive SMS text messages
2-way record
Amplify Button
Call indicator light
Headsets
Hearing Aid Friendly
Private Playback

Sending and Receiving SMS text messages - If ever you have trouble hearing someone during a telephone conversation you can switch to SMS messaging. This will allow you to send instant messages via the phone line by typing small lines of text. There is also Textphone which allows you to have a complete discussion via your phone line through text.

2-Way Record - If ever you have missed out on some parts of your conversation some answering machines are able to record the entire conversation. You can then go back to it anytime as to make sure you did not miss out on some important details during the conversation.

Amplify Button - This is used to increase the volume of the conversation by a considerable amount, making it a lot easier to make out what the other person is saying. There are also some phones that allow you to increase the volume of your speech so that the person you are talking to can hear you better.

Call Indicator Light - The call indicator light will brightly flash when there is an incoming call. If for some reason the ringer is off or you can not hear it due to being deaf or hearing impaired, this can greatly help. In most cases the indicator light will flash very fast making it easy to perceive.

Headsets - Having headsets installed on a phone system will direct the sounds straight to your ear therefore making it all that much clearer. It will also cut out other noises there may be in the background enabling you to properly concentrate on what it is the other person is saying.

Hearing Aid Friendly - Hearing aid friendly means that the phone includes an Inductive coupler. Inductive couplers are built into to most BT phones to help people using Analogue hearing aids to hear better on the phone by reducing or cutting out background noise. It is usually a good idea to ask the person who supplies your hearing aid for advice on this. Most hearing aids with a 'T' setting will work with an inductive coupler.

Private Playback - Private Playback will allow you to listen to your messages via the phones handset, this may be easier then listening through the machines loudspeaker.

Mobile or Cell phones for the hearing impaired.

There has been a break-through that may just enable real-time-text exchange for the hearing and speech impaired on all mobile phones. As of yet not all the phones are capable of interacting in this manner although it has been said that manufacturers may attempt to make it an option on the phones they make.

Nokia 9000il Communicator smart phone was one of the first to have real-time-text exchange as a function. Not only is this option good for the deaf and hearing impaired but it also provides a silent method of communication in a silent environment such as a library or during a meeting.

In addition to voice calls, the communicator enables the user to send and receive faxes, e-mail and short messages, as well as access Internet services and corporate and public databases.

The communicator can be connected to a PC either via infrared or cable (included in the sales package) for file transfer or to store backup data stored on the communicator.

There are several benefits of the BlackBerry for the deaf and hard of hearing. Most deaf users often go for the cheaper Hiptop or Sidekick because of instant messaging and better color screen. But today's BlackBerries are now much better and more consumer-friendly.

The BlackBerry is widely known to be one of the best wireless email and SMS device. Emails are instantly received and automatically displayed on the screen pager-style. No need to check email. No need to connect. Current BlackBerry models has a very good vibrating alert that vibrates more powerfully than most other cell phones. Vibrate alert works on everything, emails, SMS, alarms, and calendar appointment reminders.

Most BlackBerries no longer provide paging included but you can still get paging services from a third party. The modern service today is called a voicemail box that automatically has voice-to-text. This allows people calling you to call your voicemail and leave a message, then you simply read a transcription of your voice-mails on the screen.

Latest News

K-NFB Reading Technology Inc. A Baltimore maker of reading software for text to speech devices launched in 2005, has just released the "smallest text-to-speech reading device in history."

K-NFB Reading Technology said the technology would be deployed on the Nokia N82 mobile phone, allowing users to take pictures of text and convert the image to audible speech.

While blind users would be able to hear the contents of the document, users with learning disabilities can enlarge, read, track, and highlight printed materials using the phone's large display, according to the National Federation of the Blind. The technology has been deployed on digital assistants in the past, but this would be the first time it is integrated into a cell phone, according to the company.

On February, 11 Spice Corp Ltd, an Indian telecoms Corporation, launched the Braille Phone for the revolutionary price of $20.

The Braille Phone has basic phone call functionality, Braille input, speech output and no screen.

There is an open letter to Nokia, Google, the Open Handset Alliance and to other companies, organizations, politicians and persons from the r&d sector. Mobile technology could be a great chance for the many blind and visually impaired people around the world but it must be accessible and affordable.

The open letter informs about screen reader software for the mobile platforms S60 and Android, satellite navigation for blind pedestrians, mobile access to map data, mobile web access, self-help, commonalities of blindness and illiteracy, accessibility, corporate responsibility, suggestions for Nokia's PR and the importance of free software and affordable cell phones for the many blind people from developing or newly industrializing countries.



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