flashBACK Friday: Communicating with the deaf/hh before video phones, texting, and TTY’s

Posted by: Staff Writer on May 31, 2013

Communicating with deaf/hh friends prior to video phones, texting and TTY’s may be a familiar situation for some and a surprise to others.  It may feel like ages ago, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980’s when TTYs were available in every deaf person’s home.

How did deaf people communicate without the ease of a TTY, cell phone or a video phone (VP)? The answer is very simple - paper, pen, stamps and careful scheduling. If you find yourself transported back in time as a deaf person without a TTY or the Internet then refer to the helpful checklist below.

  • Write a letter and snail mail it. Letters from friends and family filled many deaf people’s mailboxes. Make plans for next week through your letter and anticipate a response three or four days later.
  • No stamps? Take a drive to your deaf friend’s house and wave them down through a window. Run to the back door window if you notice your deaf friend walking back to the kitchen without noticing you. Word of advice before attempting:  don’t wear stockings over your head or a mugger’s hat.
  • So, your deaf friend’s not home? Leave a note on their door to let them know you stopped by. Leave a date and time when you will return and hope they’ll be there when you come back. Keep leaving notes until the meet-up is successful.
  • Create opportunities to bump into your deaf friend in public. Visit the grocery store or the outlet mall often and you’ll be bound to bump into your deaf pal.  Invite him/her out for drinks on a specific day and specific time on a specific corner. Deaf people have to agree on a date and a place to meet beforehand then hope that any sudden conflict doesn’t strike.
  • Send out an invitation to a party you’re hosting. Deaf people love parties or any get-together that involves a room full of deaf people. Host it consistently such as every other weekend.
  • Go to deaf events in your neighborhood, or the next city, or the nearest state. Every event is an opportunity to bump into your friends and let them know you need the leaf blower they borrowed a month ago back.

Technological advances might have made communication between two deaf people easier. However, nothing beats a heartfelt written letter or a surprise drop-in visit from an old friend. Is it time to go back into the past?

What are some of the things you did to communicate with your deaf friends or families before technology?



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