Two–Way Text Pagers:
Wireless Communication Alternative for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons
By Chris Hunter, Director, Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Two–way text pagers, new on the market in 1997, are growing in popularity among Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in the USA today. Text pagers are a communication alternative for those who are unable to effectively use cellular phones.
What are they? Two–way pagers are email based communication tools. These small, light, devices have a QWERTY keyboard and LED screen. Text pagers 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. 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, direct connection to AAA (motor club) or organizational tools (Calendar, Task List, Memo Pad, Calculator, Address Book).
To make a selection:
- Decide whether the pager has coverage at home AND work or school/college by checking the zip code list on their web page.
- Compare the prices and monthly service payment.
- Test the pager during time–limited trial period (usually 14 to 30 days).
There are currently 4 most popular two— way text pagers used by Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in Michigan. These are listed below. All of these pagers send and receive email messages as their basic feature. Additional features are listed. The activation fee is between $25 and $50. Pros and cons are the opinion of the author. (Listing of these products and vendors is not intended as an endorsement, either by inclusion or exclusion.)
1. RIM 950 manufactured by Research In Motion Corp.
Price: $299 (Some vendors sell it for free or lower the price if one signs up for a one or two year agreement on certain plan.)
Features: Usage and overage check, Instant TTY, TTY Chat, TTY reply, TTY messaging, Alpha paging, text to voice, voice to text and fax.
Service fee: $15 to $40 a month, depending on plan.
Pros: It has everything except an organizational tool.
Cons: In Michigan, its coverage is limited to the large cities in southern part of state.
2. Motorola T900 (Talkabout) manufactured by Motorola
Price: $179 (Some vendors offer $80 credit on one–year contract) Service fee: $15 to $40 a month, depending on plan.
Features: Send and receive Internet e–mail.
Pros: Small, strong vibration, coverage in Michigan’s lower peninsula, receive free news, stock market report, sports scores, horoscope and movie news.
Cons: Text message is limited to 100–character transmission at a time. Sometimes the sending signal is weaker than receiving. No attachments.
3. RIM 850 manufactured by Research In Motion Corp.
Price: $400 (Currently free with a two–year contract on Power Plan offered by some vendors.)
Features: Coverage check, organizational tools, and fax. Browse website.
Service fee: Power Plan $40 a month.
Pros: Browse websites, keep appointments, etc.
Cons: Coverage is limited to southern Michigan. Consumes battery when browsing the web. Rechargeable battery and recharger are available as options.
4. NEW! T–Mobile Sidekick
Price: $250 (Currently it has manufacturer’s rebate of $50. Some vendors offer special discounts.) Monthly service fees between $30 and $60.
Features: Caller ID, Conference Calling, Call Waiting and Call Hold, Access to Directory Assistance, Emergency Calls, Detailed Billing, Voicemail with Message Alert, Call Forwarding.
International Dialing, AOL Instant MessengerTM Service.
Pros: Send and receive email with attachments and browse websites. Covers most of Michigan including interstate and Michigan highways from south to north, and major cities in the north. Unlimited email and instant messaging. It can be used as a cellular telephone.
Cons: It can be expensive if Deaf people make phone calls and has the weakest vibrator.
Here are links to the websites with sales and information on the pagers:
Deaf Wireless Superstore:
United TTY Sales and Services: