SSW Blog

Kick out TTY, Bring in VP

Posted on | March 9, 2009 | 1 Comment

As I am writing this blog about TTY,  I had finally made a decision to let TTY go. Last Friday I brought an old TTY machine back to the Converse Communication Center (CCC) office where Deaf and hard of hearing CT residents receive TTY machines or Captels on loan under TTY distribution program. I felt funny when I had informed the CCC that we did not want it any more.

The old TTY machine was useless as though it was broken in spite of several replacements of another TTY machines since 1990. I would like to share a brief history of our past communication using TTY when it began in late 70s. I had realized that I started using TTY very late and however, during 1960s and early 1970s there were some heavy huge TTY models (some called it “Monster TTY”) around as similar to teletypewriter during 1950s by US Army. This old model weighed about 200 pounds.

Before acquiring our own TTY machine at home, in past we had visited the college campus, state agency or any place where there were old TTY models for making any calls when necessary. Until 1970s there were various TTY machines as smaller and much better than old models.  Over some years, while there were some changes going on in improving TTY technology, we had enjoyed using TTY machine during 1980s and 1990s.  However, one major barrier was that the majority of businesses and agencies, and hearing people did not offer TTY for contact information. No matter how hard we had tried and our endeavor to convince its importance of TTY usage,  some few businesses and nice thoughtful hearing people had willingly bought TTY machines for some reasons to stay in touch with deaf and hard of hearing community.

Over a decade or so, some organizations had persistently continued to educate the businesses and agencies about the benefits of running TTY until the Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) was passed in 1990s to mandate Telecommunication Relay Services. This new federal law had made an impact as well as a big influence across the world. In CT we were fortunate to be able to use relay services since the mid 70s before the passage of ADA, thanks to the CCC where they first pioneered the relay services and now runs TTY distribution program.

Meanwhile telecommunication technology had gone into a fact-paced revolution and next, there was a new area emerging called videophone. More than 11 Video Relay providers had joined in this new telecommunication market.

On the contrary, TTY had became obsolete today not because of lack of interest but TTY technology is very limited and its ASCII is incompatible. For anyone who like to further read I would recommend that a book, “A New Civil Right: Telecommunication for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Americans” by Karen Peltz Strauss is an excellent resource. This book would provide a wealth of information about the history of TTY, and how the Deaf and hard of hearing people had lived throughout the years with telecommunication technology. I don’t want to further explain in detail here.

When we had received D-link DVC 1000 i2eye Videophone and Sorenson VP 100 at the same time, we had enjoyed a new experience with how to utilize those videophone devices in the beginning. While we became awkward with calling via VP we did not want to let TTY go except trying to understand why TTY did not function well. The words on TTY started scrambled and became hard to read. I guess it was due to too much static in the air wave. TTY seemed degrading and falling apart. We had determined to replace it with a new one from the CCC but it did not work right.

While we figured out why TTY was problematic we decided to use VP often and call through several VRS providers for any purpose. VP is easy and convenient as well as we are comfortable to communicate in our native language, ASL. No sweat, no doubt of what to say via VP. After hanging up with VP I had very good conscience about what exactly I spoke by word to word although I had very good feeling about another caller to understand me.

Different than TTY experience, I usually had some doubts amd admitted that I was skeptical toward the callers. Over some years I became more relaxed and self-confidence whenever using VP. I had not gone back to using TTY and forgot about it.

In spite of replacing TTY with five new machines the words did not show up right and continued being scrambled. Not worth trying to buy another new TTY. I had contacted AT&T tech to find out what was wrong with the cables outside. They did a great job to repair and try harder to resolve the matter. TTY kept sending scrambled and unclear words.

Recently I had noticed more businesses and agencies joined and announced their own TTY for contact information. Oh no they finally understood our wish but it is too late for them. We don’t use TTY anymore today but some who may not afford high speed Internet could use it anyway.

Ironically, we had another battle with the businesses and agencies about the benefits of using VP. Some of them refuse to accept our VP calls because of third party phone line by VRS providers that we use to reach hearing people who don’t have VP.  The ADA requires businesses to accept our VP calls through VRS providers as legitimate and standard practice. Yet, some businesses are ignorant and unware about this call method switching from TTY to VP.


  • Dean37

    I have a friend who has trouble speaking for the loss of a vocal chord in an auto accident. His voice is raspy and hard to understand unless you are face to face with him. What would you suggest for him and how could he acquire one for a minimal cost or for free?