by Christina Schindler

Cell phone showing text messaging on its screen.

Cell phones have quickly become the rage in the United States and abroad, but many people are not using them solely as voice communication devices. Today, people are using cell phones as their sole method of distance communication to send and receive text messages known as SMS (Short Messaging Service). By using the numbers on a cell phone keypad as a keyboard, a person can type text messages into their phone and then "send" them to another phone. Each text message can contain up to 160 characters and is usually received within a few minutes.

How Do You Do It?

Text messaging can be done using the soft keys on a cell phone, pager or mobile communicator, but input methods vary between devices. All phones have a combination of numbers and letters on their keys. Each number represents a few letters, so to type an "A" one would hit the number 2 once, to type a "B" the number 2 would be hit twice and so on. It is faster to type messages using a pager or other mobile communication device, since they often use a traditional QWERTY keyboard.

Regardless of what type of device one is using for text messaging, a predictive text feature can be enabled. This feature simply begins to predict what the user is typing, so the the entire word does not need to be typed. Another popular time saver for composing SMS's is to use lingo shortcuts to relay common messages. Instead of typing "I am home," the lingo shortcut would be IMHM.

It is important to note that since text messages are limited to 160 characters, users frequently write incomplete sentences or use SMS lingo that can be misinterpreted. Another difficulty with SMS is the relay time; messages are not received instantaneously, so SMS cannot be used for real time communication.

Who Uses SMS?

Originally targeted to business people as an add-on feature, SMS quickly became mainstream when teens adopted it as an alternate form of passing notes. Now SMS is helping to bridge the digital divide by enabling people who are deaf and hard of hearing to communicate through text messages.

Popular Text Messaging


F2T Free to talk

QPSA Que pasa?

DuR Do you remember?

PRW Parents are watching

Wan2 Want to?

WUWH Wish you were here

T+ Think positive

YBS You'll be sorry

B4N Bye for now

OXOXO Hugs and kisses

GR8 Great!

HCIT How cool is that?

2NITE Tonight

RUOK Are you okay?

XLNT Excellent

Text Messaging Benefits for People who are Deaf/HOH

Text messaging has provided the deaf community with a way to overcome the geographic and linguistic barriers they often encounter in the hearing world. SMS liberates the deaf community from being tied to a TTY (a specialized text telephone) and provides a new sense of independence for the deaf community – they can carry a lightweight, easy-to-use, portable device with them anywhere in the world and communicate with anyone who also has a text messaging device. Additionally, since cell phones are so ubiquitous in today’s society, text messaging does not call attention to a disability, and best of all, it is competitively priced.

A final benefit of text messaging for the deaf community centers on safety issues - text messaging provides them with a potentially life-saving tool to report crimes. Since 98% of the hearing impaired population in the UK uses SMS text messaging (as identified by the Birmingham Institute of the Deaf), a British police department adopted text messaging as a method of reporting crimes for the deaf community. Stations in the United States are now beginning to adopt similar practices.

Unfortunately, cell phones sometimes cause interference with hearing aids. When combating this issue, it is best to keep the hearing aid as far away from the phone as possible. Add-on listening accessories are critical to avoid this issue. Induction neck loops (which work with any hearing aid that has a "T" setting) and hands-free options keep the phone further away from the hearing aid, thus reducing the interference.

A financial obstacle the deaf community faces with text messaging centers on carrier plans. Since cell phone patrons have to enroll in phone plans, specifically voice plans, the deaf community is paying for a service they are not utilizing. Instead of a voice plan, they simply need the SMS feature, which is commonly an add-on to a voice plan. This discrepancy can prove costly since each SMS is often charged individually with rates varying from 5 to 25 cents per message. Presently, the deaf community in Europe and elsewhere are working with cell phone carriers to provide SMS-only plans.

A Forward Look- Wireless Devices:

Deaf Wireless – Features wireless messaging products for the deaf community.



NotePage, Inc. – Specializes in alphanumeric paging and wireless messaging software solutions.



WyndTell – Wynd Communications, a deaf run business, created WyndTell®, a deaf wireless service.





Instant Messaging and Mobile Comm - Links to instant messaging software and mobile text communication products and services.



AT&T Text Messaging Programs – Information on text messaging programs



Text Messaging DictionaryAT&T's extensive text messaging dictionary



Orange County Deaf Advocacy Center Cell Phone Information



Article: New Phone Code Invention Allows Text Messaging and Alpha- numeric Paging from any Phone in the world



Fact Sheet: Mobile phones - Information for people who are deaf or hard of hearing



Christina Schindler is an alumna of The College of New Jersey (M.S. Educational Technology) and an assistive technology specialist for the Adaptive Technology Center for NJ Colleges.

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