Before the advent of text messaging, deaf people who wanted to communicate with others who were outside their field of vision had to rely on TTY phones. These phones used a text keypad and display much like a cell phone with text messaging capability, but they could only communicate with other TTY phones, which made it difficult to contact others. With text messaging, communication for deaf people has gotten a lot easier.
Image of a TTY phone
Anyone will a cellular phone can send and receive text messages, which is the primary reason that text messaging has become such as popular way for people, deaf and hearing alike, to communicate. All the sender has to do is tap out his or her message and send it to that person's phone. To do so, you need only know their cellular telephone number, which you can often find by looking in online or paper directories. Increasing numbers of people are choosing to have only a cell phone instead of a land line.
For a long time, text messages from cellular phones could not be received by land line phones, which put limits on who deaf people were able to send messages to. But with the new text to landline service offered by most telephone companies, deaf people can now send text messages to almost any number. When the message is received it is read out by an automated voice so that the recipient can listen to it via handset. The only drawback is that they cannot reply the same way.
Text messaging is a lot more convenient than regular phone calls or TTY calls for another reason as well: the recipient is not required to answer the message immediately for fear of losing his or her chance. If they're in the middle of something, they can wait to read and answer the message. It gives more flexibility to people who have busy schedules or are often in situations where their phones must be turned off.
The text messaging capability of a cell phone is not just convenient for deaf people who want to communicate over great distances but also for deaf people needing to convey a message to a hearing person in the same room. If the hearing person cannot understand sign language, the deaf person can type out a question on his or her phone and show it to the recipient, who can either speak the reply (if the deaf person can lip read) or type the reply the same way.
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