Effective Communication Tools

Page Summary: 
Etiquette for TTY
ASL Certified Interpreters
Assistive Technology
Communication Tools
Auxilary Aid Plan
Information contained in the Effective Communications Toolkit was adapted from training materials provided by the Deaf Vermonters Advocacy Services; Keri Darling.

Resource Guide for Effective Communication with people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

To achieve full accessibility to people who are Deaf in the community, it is necessary to install appropriate equipment, make adjustments in budget and operating procedures, and establish a relationship with local disability related agencies. A woman who is abused and Deaf may find any lower level of accessibility inadequate to meet her needs and may even see it as a barrier to seeking services.

The most appropriate term is “deaf” or “Deaf.” The former refers to a deaf person who regards her or himself as a person with a medical condition, while the latter refers to a Deaf person who identifies with a larger community of Deaf people and a Deaf culture. As many Deaf people view it, the former term (deaf) retains a medical flavor and the latter term (Deaf) reflects a political consciousness of their place in the larger community. Another appropriate term for some people is hard-of-hearing, which refers to people who are not totally deaf but have residual hearing in one or both ears, enough to hear sounds, listen to music and speak over the telephone. Many people who are hard-of-hearing do not consider themselves part of the Deaf community.

Toolkit Contents

Important Links


TTY is an abbreviation for Text Telephone

TTY stands for Text Telephone. It is also sometimes called a TDD or Telecommunication Device for the Deaf. TTY is the more widely accepted term. However, TTYs are used by many people, not just people who are deaf.

A TTY is a special device that lets people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired use the telephone to communicate, by allowing them to type messages back and forth to one another instead of talking and listening. A TTY is required at both ends of the conversation in order to communicate.

TTY Protocols

Commonly Used TTY Abbreviations:

  • GA = Go Ahead
  • OPR = Operator
  • SK = Stop Keying
  • PLS = Please
  • CD or CLD = Could
  • Q = Question Mark
  • CUL = See you later
  • R = Are
  • CUZ = Because
  • SHD = Should
  • HD or HLD = Hold
  • THX = Thanks
  • MTG = Meeting
  • TMW = Tomorrow
  • NBR = Number
  • U = You
  • OIC = Oh, I see
  • UR = Your

Etiquette for TTY

Greet a TTY caller the same as you would a voice caller; be sure to include your name. Answer the call with the same information you would a voice call. It is important not to modify and/or abbreviate your usual greeting even if you are uncomfortable with using TTYs and/or your typing may take longer.

Take turns and do not interrupt the other person unless there is an emergency. Always let the other person complete what she or he would like to say, after which they will type "GA" (which means "Go Ahead") and it will appear on the TTY display. To start typing or to interrupt before the person has typed "GA" is considered rude or disrespectful. When you see "GA" it is your turn to type. Remember to type "GA" when you're finished, so the other person knows to respond. This is similar to "over" when communicating by radio; it's a cue that it's the other person's turn.

When you've reached an ending point for the conversation, you may type "GA to SK" which indicates "you may Go Ahead, I'm ready to Stop Keying” (you have nothing more to ask/say). At this point, the individual may say "Thanks for your help. Have a good day. SKSK" You may type, "Thank you. You too have a good day. SKSK" If the person has another question, the conversation will continue. You'll need to then determine if it is appropriate to end the conversation, just as you would with a voice caller.



ASL Certified Interpreters

Things to think about when using an ASL interpreter

American Sign Language (ASL) is a language unto itself and does not use the same grammar or sentence structure as English. When writing, try to keep sentences simple.

Miscommunications can be common due to the language barrier. For example, this sentence: “YOU ME CROSS MISS ME KNOW SORRY” is based on ASL grammatical structures. In English it translates to “WE MUST HAVE JUST MISSED EACH OTHER. I AM SORRY.”

Identify preferred interpreters

Ask if the person prefers a specific interpreter that she/he has worked with in the past. Or if there are any interpreters with whom she/he would not feel comfortable working with.

Tell the person when the interpreter will arrive. Depending on how far she/he needs to travel, an interpreter might arrive within 30 minutes to several hours from the time you contact them.


Interaction with an interpreter

  • Communication is a two-way street.
  • Interpreting is a profession with national standards, a code of ethics and role guidelines.
  • The interpreter Code of Ethics prohibits sharing of work-related information.
  • The interpreter will interpret everything that is said verbatim without changing the content.
  • The interpreter attempts to take on the persona of the person speaking.
  • The interpreter's responsibility is to transmit information accurately and clearly.


  • Speak at your natural pace.
  • When talking, look at the person who is Deaf, not at the interpreter, even when the person who is Deaf is looking at the interpreter.
  • Position the interpreter next to you so that the person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing can maintain eye contact with you and the interpreter.
  • Position the interpreter away from shadows, bright lights or busy backdrops as they cause distortion
  • Position yourself so that window light is not behind you.
  • Make sure there are no objects in your mouth when speaking (gum, food).



Two–way text paging is a communication alternative that people who are Deaf may use on a “Blackberry”, “Treo” or similar email based communication device with a small keyboard and screen. These small, light, hand-held devices are used to reach anyone, anytime, from almost anywhere. They communicate to other pagers or computers utilizing a vibrator to alert the user when a message arrives.

These devices can also be used to communicate with telephone users through a Relay service. Some pagers have extra service features such as sending faxes, live TTY chat, instant message chat, voice to text or text to voice, browse on websites, or organizational tools.

Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is a word-for-word speech-to-text interpreting service. A CART provider uses a court reporter’s stenograph machine, special translation software and a notebook computer to render instant speech-to-text translation on a computer monitor or other display for the benefit of an individual or larger group in a variety of settings.

CART can allow people with hearing loss to fully participate in a variety of meetings, trainings or events by reading the computer screen as the session is occurring.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are designed to improve communication for people with hearing loss in situations where hearing aids alone are inadequate. In groups, or in noisy environments, sound is diffused, reverberates, and may be drowned out by other competing sounds. For people with hearing loss, this makes listening almost impossible. Assistive listening devices carry the sound across distance and block out background sounds. The desired sound is sent directly into the listener’s ears. Instead of hearing from across the room, sound is heard as if the speaker were right next to the listener, while background sounds are silenced.



Some people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing use email regularly throughout the day, through a computer or hand-held device like a Blackberry. For some, this is the most convenient way to communicate.

Internet Relay (IR) to Phone:

  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing person uses a computer or Blackberry to contact the Relay Service Communication Assistant, who will call you on your regular phone.
  • As you speak, the Communication Assistant types your responses which the other person reads on her/his computer screen.
  • A person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing uses a computer or Blackberry to contact the Relay Service Communication. Assistant, who will call you on your regular phone
  • As you speak, the Communication Assistant types your responses which the other person reads on her/his computer screen.

Video Relay (VRS) to Phone:.

  • A person who is Deaf may use video conferencing equipment to contact Video Relay Center operator, who will call the advocate on the regular phone.
  • As you speak, the operator signs to the other person through video conferencing equipment.


Outreach Strategies

  • Look for opportunities to reach out to individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals in your community.
  • Make sure your outreach materials are clear about how callers who are Deaf can access your hotline: “Callers who are Deaf may use video or telephone relay” OR “callers who are Deaf use TTY.
  • Use accessible language on outreach materials.



People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing can use special equipment, technology, interpreters and services to communicate with hearing people or with each other.

Using Email or Text Messages

Some people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing use email regularly throughout the day, through a computer or hand-held device like a Blackberry. For some, this is the most convenient way to communicate.

Use Accessible Language

Ensure the person knows how often you will be checking email and is aware of how to contact you in an emergency or if a response is urgently needed.



Here are some tips for communicating before the interpreter arrives:

  • Use only for communicating simple information.
  • Keep written communications short and simple.
  • Use pictures and Communication Boards. Draw, gesture, point at objects and pictures to communicate.
  • Rephrase if the person seems not to understand. Check regularly for understanding conversation than if it had been spoken. Ask survivors if they’d like time with interpreters before a meeting to become familiar with their language styles and to discuss where they would like for the interpreters to sit.
  • If communication barriers exist even with an interpreter, ask the person who is Deaf if they would like a certified Deaf interpreter present to support them in their communication process.
  • If a person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing says she can hear and speak, and doesn’t require an interpreter, make sure to check in with her during conversations. Ask her what she understands from the conversation thus far.
  • Ask the person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing in advance prior to meetings that seem to require interpreters, how they would like effective communication to happen and if they would like an interpreter present.
  • After any meeting with a person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing, ask her for feedback. How was the communication process? If an interpreter was present, did the interpreter meet her needs? Was she comfortable? How can things be done differently in the future? Does she prefer different interpreters next time?

Allow extra time for conversations and meetings with people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, as the communication process may be prolonged. Be positive, open, and patient with regards to the communication process.

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