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The Rochester Model Training Project: Assisting Women Who Are Abused in Our Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community

Remote Communication with Battered Women Who Are Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing: FAQs

July 1, 2005

Author: Amy Schwartz-Wallace

What is a TTY?

You may have heard of the terms "TTY" and "TDD." Both terms describe the same device, which is a machine used by deaf and speech-impaired persons to communicate by telephone with hearing persons.

Who Is Required to Have a TTY?

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires places of public accommodation to provide a TTY for public use whenever they provide regular telephones for use by the general public. At least one TTY should be installed in any building with at least four public pay phones.

How Does a TTY Work?

A TTY is an electronic device that has a keyboard and acoustic couplers to receive a telephone handset. The sending-TTY converts a typewritten message into audible tones. Those tones are carried over the telephone line and received by the receiving-TTY at the other end of the line. Once received, those tones are converted into visible text on the screen of the receiving-TTY.

How Do I Make a Phone Call Using a TTY?

First, turn on the TTY. The On-Off switch is usually located on the black text-screen of the TTY.

Second, place a telephone handset into the acoustic couplers.

Third, dial the number you wish to call. Once received, the TTY-user receiving the call will begin typing a message. That message will appear on the black text-screen of your TTY.

Finally, read the message and reply!

How Do I Receive a TTY Call?

If your TTY is directly plugged into a telephone line, a bright light on your TTY will flash, signaling an incoming call. To answer the call, you simply need to begin typing on the TTY keyboard.

If you receive a phone call on your regular voice-line, you may or may not hear the audible tones produced by the caller. Simply place the handset into the acoustic couplers of your TTY and type your greeting.

Do I Use Special Language on the TTY?

Deaf people use many abbreviations to speed up TTY communications.

When finished talking, type "GA" (meaning "go ahead") to signal to the person at the other end that you are done typing and that it is their turn to type.

If you make a mistake in spelling, you can (1) backspace to delete the mistake, or (2) type

"XXX" and then retype the word correctly.

When you are finished with the conversation, type "SK SK" (meaning "stop keying") to signal to the person at the other end that you are finished with the conversation.

Do TTY Calls Take Extra Time?

Yes, TTY phone calls take extra time because most people type more slowly than they are able to speak. Allow extra time to communicate with a person by TTY so that neither party feels rushed in the conversation.

What is the Relay System?

The Relay System refers to operators who facilitate telephone calls between TTY users and non- TTY users.

A relay operator has both a voice telephone line and a TTY ready to go at all times. When an operator receives a call from either a deaf or hearing person, the operator will ask for the telephone number to be dialed. The operator places the call. Once the call is received, the operator will both read what the deaf person types, and will type what the hearing person voices.

When voicing to a relay operator, you can use the same abbreviations you use on the TTY, including "Go Ahead" and "Stop Keying."

Anyone can use the relay system. Dial NY Relay at 1-800-421-1220 and give it a try today!

What is Internet Relay?

Internet Relay is the adaptation of traditional relay services over the Internet.

The caller logs on to an Internet Relay service provider (Ex., and AT&T's

 The caller gives the operator the number he/she wishes to call. The operator places the call, and then voices what the deaf person types and types what the hearing person voices.

Anyone can use Internet Relay. Give it a try!

What is VRS (Video Relay System)?

Video Relay Systems are the latest technological advancement of relay services that utilizes digital video technology.

A caller will connect to a video interpreter (Ex.,, and AT&T's The caller's image is continually recorded and transmitted to the video interpreter through the video recorder sitting atop the caller's TV or computer monitor.

The caller will sign the telephone number he/she wishes to call.

The video interpreter will place the call.

Once the call is received, the video interpreter will translate what the hearing person says into sign language, and will translate what the deaf person says into spoken English.

What Safety Issues Should A Woman Who is Abused Who is Deaf Be Aware of in Using TTY or Relay Services?

TTY's usually have a "read-back" feature enabling the full text of a previous conversation to be reviewed after the conversation has been terminated. Domestic violence victims should be trained to erase conversations from the TTY's memory at the conclusion of each conversation if their abuser has access to the TTY machine. The victim may also consider using another TTY in a safe location.

Abusers have impersonated their victims using the TTY. If you have ongoing TTY contact with a woman who is abused, be certain to establish a "code word" with her in advance so she can confirm her identity with that code prior to beginning a conversation.

Internet Relay conversations are saved in HTML format on the computer screen. Service providers and domestic violence victims should be trained to (1) avoid making internet relay calls when an abuser is nearby, and (2) close down the conversation window and the internet connection at the conclusion of each internet relay phone call.

If you are having some communications with the domestic violence survivor who is deaf via email, remember that this is not a secure way to communicate—her abuser may have access to her passwords, be stalking her, or monitoring her internet activities with spyware. Suggest that she set up a free account from Yahoo or Hotmail (a web browser account) that can be accessed from safer locations such as internet cafes, library computers, or other places.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2004-FW-AX-K027 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.


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