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While you were snooping around the settings of your phone or tablet, you may have noticed an option to turn off and on a TTY mode. What is it? What does it do? Is it important? Can I turn it off? Naturally, you want to know what it does and if it’s helpful to you. You’ve just stumbled onto the answer to that very question.

What is TTY Mode?

TTY stands for ‘teletypewriter’ or ‘text telephone.’ For the uninitiated, teletypewriters are widely used for individuals that have their hearing impaired or for individuals that have trouble speaking. Initially, a TTY device was used frequently in the news field. By speaking into the machine, the device would then take those words, translate them and then display them onto a screen for the individual to read.

You might be thinking, “Well, how does that help those with difficulty speaking?” That answer is simple: it came with a keyboard. You type words into the keyboard and the device will speak them for you.

Accessibility is the name of the game. FCC deemed TTY modes so important, it’s mandatory that cellphones have the capability to connect with TTY machines. Since there is more than one kind of impairment, several TTY modes have been implemented onto smartphones to cover the variety, hence TTY “modes.”

TTY comes in many forms and if you plan on speaking with individuals with impairments, it’s worth investing in the equipment needed for smoother communication.

Turning TTY Mode On and Off with Android

Every smartphone comes with TTY capabilities. It’s a necessary function of every phone, so much so that the FCC even deemed it mandatory. And that’s where TTY mode comes in. Turning it on and off is rather simple, though admittedly, a bit out of the way and behind a few menus, but it’s there and still easy to get to. Here’s what you do:

1. Locate and launch your Phone app, preferably your default Phone app. Not all phone apps are created equally and the stock Phone app that comes with your smartphone will always have TTY mode. Its icon is, generally, the outline of a phone. Look for the Phone app somewhere on one of your home screens. If you don’t find it there, check inside your App Drawer. All currently installed apps are housed in the App Drawer.

2. In the very top right corner, there’s three tiny dots in a vertical formation. Go ahead and select them. It doing so, it will open a drop down menu with a handful of options.

3. In the drop down menu, select Settings. Doing so will redirect you to the Settings menu.

4. In the Settings menu, locate and select Call Settings. This time you’ll get redirected to the Call Settings menu.

5. In Call Settings, locate and select TTY mode. Selecting it will prompt a window with a handful of options to choose from.

6. TTY mode has several different variations that cover the different impairments. The different TTY modes are broken down as such:

  • TTY Off: This is the default setting for most phones. Generally speaking, if you have impairments that require the need for TTY mode, you’ll have to active TTY mode before it can assist you.
  • TTY Full: This TTY mode is strictly text based for both ends; there’s no audio involved. This mode is very helpful if both individuals in the conversation have some kind of impairment. Since it translates into text, there’s nothing to hear and there aren’t any words to speak.
  • TTY HCO: HCO, or ‘Hearing Carry Over,’ is for individuals that have a speech impairment but is still capable of hearing. The opposite of TTY VCO. A message will get sent as a text and the other person can still send replies back with audio.
  • TTY VCO: This is the opposite of TTY HCO. If your hearing has been impaired, but you are still capable of speaking, then you’ll want to use TTY VCO, or ‘Voice Carry Over.’

Furthermore, consider the other settings found in Call Settings. It provides additional options that can enhance a phone’s TTY mode, like an option for hearing aids.

Turning TTY Mode On and Off with iOS

1. Locate and launch the Settings app. Its icon is a gear. You can find it on the home screen. If you can’t find it, you might be swiping past it. Don’t forget to check inside any app folders you may have.

2. In the Settings menu, scroll down until you locate General. Go ahead and select it.

3. In General, select Accessibility. Afterwards, you’ll see TTY mode and its options.

  • Check under the section ‘Turning TTY Mode On and Off with Android,’ for additional details on the different TTY modes. They’re found under Step 6.

As you can see, turning TTY mode off does nothing for individuals that don’t have impairments to worry about. However, if you do have impairments that require the need of TTY mode, then you’ll find difficulties communicating considering that was the point of TTY mode to begin with. Turn it back on as soon as you get the chance. TTY mode functions specific to the impairment.

Communicating with individuals that have impairments is still capable, even if you don’t have any TTY equipment. In fact, there’s a line dedicated to connecting individuals, in the United States, to others with impairments called the Telecommunications Relay Service. The service is available around the clock. You can have your message typed up by an individual working in TRS, which is then sent.