February 12, 2018
Real-Time Text is Wireless Accessibility for the 21st Century .
CTIA and our member companies have long been proud partners of the accessibility community in efforts to make mobile wireless connectivity available to everyone, including people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and speech-impaired. From adapting mobile phones to work with TTY machines—devices that plug into phone lines, allowing the user to type text messages to someone else with a TTY—to offering text and data-only plans, visual alert features, and Text-to-911, we’ve brought our innovative spirit to help address the needs of this community.
The wireless industry, supported by a FCC rule change, recently launched another new accessibility service—this one called Real-Time Text, also known as RTT.
Real-Time Text updates the TTY technology built for the telephone era for the modern era. To use TTY, you needed special equipment—an external TTY plug-in device—and had to wait for the other person to hit send before a message could be seen. RTT doesn’t require any additional equipment, and you can see letters, numbers or symbols as they are typed by the other person—allowing for faster response rates and a more conversational flow of communication.
In fact, that is one of the biggest benefits of RTT—that it is faster than a text or SMS message. This rapid communication can be beneficial during high-stress situations—like contacting 9-1-1 to quickly relay critical information about your location and wellbeing. RTT also allows you to take advantage of modern smartphone keyboards, meaning you can type in multiple languages, use emojis, or type symbols such as “@”.
Many wireless consumers can start using RTT today, as it is built into some of the latest mobile phones. Some carriers have RTT capabilities loaded into a smartphone’s software, and others offer the technology via an app. Providers are also hard at work to make RTT interoperable across wireless networks soon. And in the coming years, more carriers, device manufacturers, and 9-1-1 public safety answering points (PSAPs) will be rolling out RTT services to their customers and communities.
Ensuring that people of all different abilities can participate in our mobile wireless future is one of the wireless industry’s highest priorities. Carriers and device manufacturers that support Real-Time Text are doing their part to expand the already diverse range of accessibility innovations. To learn about other wireless accessibility offerings, or to view our full list of consumer tips on RTT visit accesswireless.org.
Here are a few tips about how RTT functionality works today:
- Availability: Talk to your provider directly to learn about RTT availability for your plan and options for your device.
- Safety: RTT can be used to connect with 9-1-1 services during an emergency. If the 9-1-1 call center that you reach is RTT-ready, then RTT communication will operate both ways. Otherwise, the call may operate as a TTY communication.
- Usability: Accessing RTT varies depending on your provider’s offerings and your device model. Some providers install RTT features directly in the software, while others have created an app for the service. You can learn more about how to use RTT at AccessWireless.org.