General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

How do the deaf and blind interact with technology, especially telephony?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10280points) May 16th, 2010

I was wondering what the standard deaf persons cell phone is like. I was also wondering what the blind use for text messaging.


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24 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Deaf people use TTY. Blind people do the same thing you do.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Deaf people who own cells generally have text messaging set to vibrate. Before cellphones were around like they are, people would either call the operator and have them relay a message to the deaf person through something like a fax machine, called a TTY (Teletype) – which would print out the message. If a deaf person was calling another deaf person, both people generally had the machines, so all they had to do was type to each other. TTY is still used, but less so, now that text messaging on cellphones is becoming so extremely mainstream.

eden2eve's avatar

The deaf community also uses a service called IP Relay, where they can use their computer to access a Relay Operator, who will place a call for them and relay their typed messages by voice to the hearing user. Then they type the responses to the deaf caller. It’s provided in the US by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and funded by surcharges to telephone users. This is a popular service, but it has been much abused by the hearing, all over the world.

dpworkin's avatar

@eden2eve That’s great to know. I had never heard of it. I should add that there are some screen-reading programs being developed specifically for smart phones, since blind people cannot used the GUI. My girlfriend is beta-testing one of them now, on a Blackberry Tour. So far it is inadequate, but better than nothing.

filmfann's avatar

My wife is deaf. She hasn’t used the TTY in years. She uses her cell phone for texting, and she uses MS Messenger to chat with her daughters, or friends across the country.
When she first got her cell, she actually teared up, and said it made her feel like a hearing person. Her cell has the standard qwerty keyboard.

Buttonstc's avatar

Why on earth would a blind person want to use a cell phone for text messaging when they can just TALK to the other person ?

That is the ONLY thing that one could use a cell phone for in “ancient times”. Too many people have forgotten that its
primary use is to talk. Hello.

Obviously texting makes perfect sense for the deaf. I guess blind people might have an occasional use for it and I realize that most young folks would die without it.

But for a long time there was no such thing as text messaging on cell phones.

I get along quite well without it at all :)

dpworkin's avatar

@filmfann Your wife and my girlfriend should square off in the Techno-Battle Death Cage Match of Disability.

filmfann's avatar

@dpworkin I would argue that my wife is more disabled than your gf. After all, your gf is only dating you. My wife is married to me.

dpworkin's avatar

@filmfann She is engaged to marry me, but you have a point.

Buttonstc's avatar


I’m curious to know which cell and program your gf is testing.

A few months ago the company which produces Dragon Naturally Speaking for computers issued Dragon Dictate for iPhone.

It’s a free app btw.

meagan's avatar

Text messaging is so useless to begin with. So A+ for the blind people that don’t use it.

I came here more or less to say that a friend of mine stumbled across some porn made for blind people. It was very descriptive. Interesting! lol

Kayak8's avatar

All my Deaf friends have Blackberries or something similar. It has totally opened up the world of communication with hearing friends. Before we used to use the relay service, but it never felt confidential or chatty—it was more to make appointments to see each other. Before that was TTY GA

dpworkin's avatar

@Buttonstc Mere speech-to-text or text-to-speech is inadequate. The reader has to be able to detect and execute programs and the interpret what the programs are displaying. V is testing a program by a company called HumanWare, on a Blackberry.

Buttonstc's avatar


That makes sense because I belatedly realized that the Blackberry has actual physical buttons to push (which can be memorized by a blind person) vs the iPhones totally smooth touch interface.

That wouldn’t be efficient for the blind at all. It’s interesting the things we take for granted as sighted persons.

How is she liking the beta testing process and the program ?

dpworkin's avatar

She finds the Beta to be full of glitches, but better than nothing. The blind cannot use virtual keyboards. Each time there is a leap in technology there is a corresponding period where the blind are temporarily isolate; also the solutions are very expensive (screen readers cost around $1,000 and no one subsidizes them. As you may know, many blind people are on SSI.)

Buttonstc's avatar

Yes. I am aware of the SSI necessity for many and it’s usually significantly less than the regular SS.

Hopefully they let her keep hers since she’s helping them out with the Beta?

I’m also presuming that she normally doesn’t rely on texting over speech the way modern teens do.

I saw a humorous scene with two teens in a sitcom who were sitting in the living room texting each other rather than just having a conversation :D

dpworkin's avatar

No. It has cost $750 which was required up-front to participate at all. That does not include the phone. The program disables the camera, the clock, the GPS navigator and several other functions in order to work.

Buttonstc's avatar

Wow. That really sucks !

dpworkin's avatar

The blind are a very small minority, and economies of scale are not feasible. Also, our culture has coddled and infantilized the blind until quite recently. V’s parents had to fight very hard to mainstream her during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and they were both officials in the Connecticut school system, or it never would have happened. She has an advanced degree from Columbia, and is quite accomplished, as are certain other of her blind friends, but he story is by no means routine.

pitchtheview's avatar

Deaf people don’t only have TTY’s but they also have VP’s which is their type of telephone. I’m surprised that no one mentioned it, but anyway, a lot of Deaf people also have sidekicks or blackberries to communicates.

filmfann's avatar

I don’t know that video phones are that common in the deaf community. My wife, who is deaf, doesn’t know anyone with one. This could be a good thing for them, but because the deaf are usually poorer than others, I think things like MSN-Instant Messaging is more what they will use.

pitchtheview's avatar

@filmfann The VP’s are free… Where do y’all live? That probably affects the reason you don’t have VPs. They’re more popular in the West instead of the East.

filmfann's avatar

You wanna go further west than me, you gotta go to Hawaii.

pitchtheview's avatar

Hahaha, I don’t know if they provide VPs in Hawaii, probably not seeing as no one has one there… :[

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