Email or texts are used by almost everyone these days, and thanks to text-to-speech software, they can be accessible to everyone. But back in the olden days (25 years ago or so) land line telephones were pretty much the only means to access two-way communication from a distance. Good luck trying to call your Aunt Marge if you had a speech or hearing issue.
Enter Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the requirement that telecommunications be made accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability to hear or speak.
Title IV required telephone companies to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services (TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use TTYs (teletypewriters; also known as TDDs), and callers who use voice telephones to communicate with each other through a third party communications assistant.
TTYs are still in use (although not too common) and there are other accessible telecommunications tools available, some of which you might be acquainted with:
- Audio/visual accessible Pagers
- Specialized telephones
- Speech generating devices
- Amplifiers or headsets
Another issue Title IV mandated was that Federally funded public service announcements had to be closed captioned. This meant people with hearing issues could see if there was an emergency message being broadcast on their televisions. Today, news agencies and broadcasters are required to offer closed captioning options for all of their programming.
Thanks to the ADA, people with hearing or speech issues now have the means to access telephone communication and television broadcasts, with more ease and availability.
Learn more about Telecommunications Access for People With Disabilities at the FCCs website.