Questions & Answers of ADA

Emergency Services

IMPORTANT NOTE: Ultratec provides this information pertaining to the ADA requirements solely as a convenience for our customers. We cannot provide legal opinion or legal advice regarding possible positions that may be adopted by administrative agencies or the courts as to any aspect of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Please feel free to use these resources as needed for your local advocacy efforts.

TTY, TDD and Text Telephone all refer to the same device.


As an emergency service provider or advocate, you probably know that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has a significant impact on access to emergency services facilities. According to former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, "The enforcement of the ADA is one of [the] highest priorities at the Justice Department."

Ultratec has worked with thousands of emergency service providers, providing proven, reliable equipment with features directly designed from emergency service feedback. We can help you ensure emergency service facilities in your area are ADA compliant in an easy and affordable manner.

Please review the solutions that we offer and then contact us for more assistance. We will help you find the setup that works best with your specific concerns.

Questions and Answers

What does the ADA require for telephone emergency services?

"Public safety agencies that provide telephone emergency services must provide 'direct access' to individuals who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD) or computer modems for telephone communication. These agencies must ensure that the services for nonvoice calls are as effective as those provided for voice calls."

The applicable Title II regulation at 28 C.F.R. § 35.162 states:

"Telephone emergency services, including 911 services, shall provide direct access to individuals who use TDDs and computer modems."

"Commonly Asked Question Regarding Telephone Emergency Services," U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section.

What services are covered by telephone emergency services in Title II?

"The phrase telephone emergency services applies to basic emergency services - police, fire and, and ambulance - that are provided by public safety agencies, including 9-1-1 (or, in some cases, seven-digit) systems. Direct access must be provided to all services included in the system including services such as emergency poison control information. Emergency services that are not provided by public entities are not subject to the requirement for direct access."

"Commonly Asked Question Regarding Telephone Emergency Services," U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section.

What is direct access?

"Direct access means that telephone emergency services can directly receive calls from TDD and computer modem users without relying on State telephone relay services or third party services."

"Commonly Asked Question Regarding Telephone Emergency Services," U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section.

How many TTYs do I need in my center to be accessible?

The rules did not establish minimum standards, only a performance standard through the mandate for direct access. How many TTYs you need in your center will depend on the number of telecommunicators, the size of your center and the frequency of TTY calls. Some PSAPs have a TTY at each station (plus one back-up) and some have one for each incoming line. You need to determine how to best prepare for your center's needs. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno explained how the Department of Justice interprets the ADA as related to emergency service providers, "Under the law, 911 centers must provide direct access to TDD users. We believe that means there must be one TDD per call-taking position in most centers."

How would I connect the TTY in my center?

The TTY can be connected directly to your phone line, or can be used in acoustic mode. An incoming TTY call can be transferred to another position just like any other call. In direct connect a TTY requires a standard analog phone line. If you have a digital system, the call may be transferred to an analog port. TTYs used in acoustic mode may be used with any phone system.

Can I have the TTY automatically answer the call and send out an identification message?

Yes, a message can be preprogrammed and the machine set to answer the call on the first ring. The TTY is connected to the phone system with a standard RJ11 jack.

How do I know the call is a TTY call?

You will know that the call is a TTY call in one of three ways:

  1. If you hear an electronic voice announce a message into the telephone alerting you to the TTY call.
  2. If you hear the tones of keys being depressed on the TTY at the other end.
  3. If you hear silence at the other end (it may be a TTY call).

Can I get a printout of the TTY call?

Yes, a TTY with a built-in printer will give you a printed record of the conversation. Some models are available with a print out of the date and time on each call.

Yes, TTYs communicate with audible tones over the standard lines and therefore should not affect ALI and ANI functions.

How Can Ultratec Help with Compliance?

Ultratec recommends the Superprint 4425A, an advanced printing TTY with date and time stamp and automatic code recognition for efficient communication in emergencies.