DEAR ABBY: As a young woman with a hearing impairment, I am grateful for TTY (Text Teletypewriter) and TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf), but I find that a large segment of the population is not familiar with these wonderful services.
Many people are intimidated by TTY or TDD. Most secretaries, receptionists and business people don't have a clue as to how to deal with a TTY client. A changed appointment date can turn an entire office into a tizzy. They don't know how to notify me. Some believe they must have a TTY phone to contact a TTY user, which is not the case. Most are unnerved by the process and simply do not bother, leaving those with a hearing impairment isolated and uninformed. I hope this letter will help people better understand and use TTY and TDD.
Instead of the usual handset, a TTY phone has a keyboard and a display panel. These phones are owned by persons who have a hearing deficiency and have difficulty understanding speech. Instead of hearing, one SEES the messages as they are transmitted by means of a telephone line.
To talk to the user of a TTY phone, you do not need a special phone. Simply dial a relay service, and calling assistants will make the connection for you. The relay number (a toll-free 800 number) is shown in the information pages at the front of every telephone directory. Use this number regardless of the destination of your call.
Once the calling assistant has made the connection and the phone is answered, your oral responses are typed for the hearing-impaired person, who reads it and types a response that the calling assistant reads to you. Thus, a conversation can be carried on. I cannot praise calling assistants highly enough. These men and women are paragons of patience and perform their duties with tact and decorum.
Abby, I and many others would appreciate your publishing this information about TTY and TDD, which for those with hearing impairments means the difference between being able to conduct one's own affairs or having to depend on others. -- L.L. LARSON, FRANKLIN, WIS.
DEAR L.L: I, too, have been hesitant to conduct a TTY phone call in the past. Thank you for a fascinating letter that will educate countless readers, as it did me.