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No Sign-Language Interpreter? Try this App System!

deaf-hearing chat device appsFace-to-face communication for a person who is deaf with someone who does not sign, can be difficult. Interpreters are not always available. Writing doesn’t always work because it can be slow and not everyone has terrific penmanship.  Texting is great sometimes, but it doesn’t work for everyone or when the service is down.  There are two-way text communication devices specifically for this situation called the Ubiduo or Interpretype; however, these are expensive, not portable, and meant to be used while sitting at a table.

Enter a set of Android apps called “Deaf/Hearing Chat Device”.  The purpose of this app system is to establish a running conversation in text form between a person who is deaf and does not speak with a person who can hear. This requires two Android devices (tablets or smartphones) and a Bluetooth connection.  No Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G required.

The person who is deaf uses an Android device with the Deaf/Hearing Chat Device-Deaf App ($5.99), and they communicate by typing or Swyping.  The person who they want to communicate with is given another Android device with the Deaf/Hearing Chat Device-Hearing App ($8.99), and they communicate by typing, Swyping or entering their text by voice with the built-in Google speech recognition engine.

We tried this at IPAT with an Asus tablet and a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, both running Android 4.1 (Jellybean) with Wi-Fi and 4G turned off.  The Bluetooth took a minute to connect, but once connected, the conversation commenced with virtually no delay between transmissions.  The voice recognition worked well even without Wi-Fi or 4G. When the transmission was sent to the phone, it vibrated to alert the user (does not work with tablets), which is really nice if communicating with someone who is “long-winded” and you doze off.

The best features, in my opinion, were not having to pass a device back and forth and being able to see the threaded conversation in real time. In addition, the font size of the app user interface was very large, even on small devices, which would be great for someone with low vision.  In the future for long conversations, I would increase the timeout on each device’s display setting,  as it became annoying when the screens would turn off mid conversation.

Intrigued? Grab a friend with a smartphone or tablet and try the free limited trial versions of this app system.  Let me know how it works for you!

UPDATE: Apple iOS versions of Deaf/Hearing Chat Device are available!

Further Reading

New Tech! Sign Language Translation Gloves

We receive several calls each year from people who are deaf, inquiring about new technology that would help them communicate with hearing people who do not know sign language. Many want an electronic,...


Communication Without an Interpreter: Possibility Realized!

For people who are deaf and use sign language, an interpreter can make all of the difference in many communication situations. What does one do, though, when an interpreter is not available and texting/writing...


MotionSavvy UNI: Changing the Way those who are Deaf and those who Hear Communicate

  Sign language is a rich, complete, and complex form of communication used by those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Until recently, without the use of an interpreter, those who use sign language...


ASL Your Primary Language? Expand Communication Partners Using these Apps

I would like to share the results of a consultation IPAT recently provided that opened some new communication avenues for an individual whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL). The young...


10 Comments on “No Sign-Language Interpreter? Try this App System!”

  • Vasily Sarslander December 15th, 2013 5:12 am

    Jeannie, thanks for the great review!
    After the massive success of ‘Deaf – Hearinf Chat. Device H/D’ for Android, I have now launched ‘Deaf – Hearing Chat’ for iOS. Version 1.1, that support iPhone, iPod, iPad, available on App Store.

  • IPAT December 15th, 2013 1:36 pm

    That’s great! Thanks for letting us know!

  • Crystal February 4th, 2014 7:49 pm

    I have Samsung galaxy s4 and I want to use voice to text message because when people calls to the voice mail then I can’t hear what they saying. I want to know what website for deaf/hard of hearing voice texts. I hate voice mail and it’s really annoying. I did download apps for deaf/ hard of hearing device. It already paid for it and I don’t know what to do. Because it’s not connected to my phone. Please help me and send me information. Thanks

  • IPAT February 5th, 2014 2:23 pm

    Hi Crystal! I will email you privately as I have some questions re: your needs and the app you are using before I can give you an answer to your question.

  • Cstewart April 16th, 2014 9:58 am

    I have a question. Do both phones have to be on a phone plan. Really interested in this app for student getting ready to go into work force

  • IPAT April 16th, 2014 10:51 am

    Hello! The devices connect via Bluetooth, so 4G or WiFi are not required, therefore no phone plan is needed for either device. Good luck with your students!

  • Mike Foster May 18th, 2015 3:45 am

    Has the system been accepted in court and the phone displayed be projected onto a screen or computer monitor?

  • IPAT May 19th, 2015 10:58 am

    Hello Mike- most smartphones have the ability to display or share their screens, just depends on what you are using. Some require a cable and some can do it wirelessly. In regards to the court question, I would refer you to the ADA.gov and the officials in your court system.

  • Susan Sumner July 12th, 2015 7:52 am

    My neighbor has completely lost his hearing. I’m looking for something that he can hold and other people can talk into and it will type the text message for him to read.

  • IPAT July 16th, 2015 8:31 am

    Hi Susan! Voice recognition which is available on most smartphones now can provide you with this service. If you would like more information, please contact me at 1-800-895-4728 or jmkrull@ndipat.org.

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