A textphone has a keyboard and a display screen, you type what you want to say rather than speaking into a mouthpiece and can read the conversation on a display without needing to hear the other party. You may decide to use a textphone instead of a standard telephone if you are deaf and/or if you have difficulties with your speech.
Screen phones have a screen on which the incoming caller's speech is displayed in text format so you can have a conversation using your voice but without hearing your caller. This use of your speech but conversion of the other person's speech into text is sometimes known as Voice Carry Over (VCO).1 Some textphones have a VCO option. Screen phones do not have a keyboard, although this can be purchased as an accessory. You may prefer a screen phone to a textphone it you want to use your voice but cannot hear the other person on the phone.
Unlike text messages and email textphones relay the message instantly as if you are in a conversation, consequently both caller and receiver need to be using their phone or textphone at the same time. Most textphones plug directly into a standard phone line.
In the UK the word 'Minicom' is sometimes used instead of textphone. Minicom is actually a widely used brand of textphone.1
Making calls to/from textphones
If you're making a call from a telephone and you think the call may be answered by someone using a textphone dial 18002 & then their telephone number.
If you're making a call from a textphone dial 18001 & then the telephone number of the person your calling. If the person answers using a telephone, they will receive an automatic message stating that they are receiving a Text Relay call, there will be a short delay while a relay assistant joins your call. You can then take turns with the person you're calling to type or speak. Each time you finish typing a message type 'GA' or 'ga', this stands for 'go ahead'.2
In an emergency dial 18000.
Some communication aids can also be used when making telephone calls using their built in voice synthesiser. View communication aids.View references and sources of further information ›
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