Questions & Answers of ADA

Public Phones

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.

By Pamela Holmes, Director of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Ultratec, Inc.

Which public telephones are specifically cited in the ADA regulations?

Public telephones in hotels, hospitals, convention centers, stadiums, arenas, covered malls, airports, and transit facilities are specifically cited in the ADA regulations. Also cited are all types of newly constructed or renovated facilities with a total number of four or more public telephones at a site.

The following quotes are taken from the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) published in the July 26, 1991 Federal Register by the Department of Justice and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. These regulations apply to newly constructed and renovated public accommodations and commercial facilities, and, in some cases, to retrofitting of equipment in existing facilities.

If a total number of four or more public pay telephones (including both interior and exterior phones) is provided at a site, and at least one is in an interior location, then at least one interior public text telephone shall be provided.

If an interior public pay telephone is provided in a stadium or arena, in a convention center, in a hotel with a convention center, or in a covered mall, at least one interior public text telephone shall be provided in the facility.

If a public pay telephone is located in or adjacent to a hospital emergency room, hospital recovery room, or hospital waiting room, one public text telephone shall be provided at each such location.

Where a bank of telephones in the interior of a building consists of three or more public pay telephones, at least one public pay telephone in each such bank shall be equipped with a shelf and outlet.

At least one interior public text telephone shall be provided if:

In Fixed Facilities, Stations & Existing Key Stations

If an interior public pay telephone is provided in a transit facility (as defined by the Department of Transportation) at least one interior public text telephone shall be provided in the station.

Where four or more public pay telephones serve a particular entrance to a rail station and at least one is in an interior location, at least one interior public text telephone shall be provided to serve that entrance.

In Airports

Where public pay telephones are provided, and at least one is at an interior location, a public text telephone shall be provided. Additionally, if four or more public pay telephones are located in any of the following locations, at least one public text telephone shall also be provided in that location:

Which accessibility standards specifically address public telephones in local and state facilities?

Although, there are very specific guidelines for public accommodations and commercial facilities that are newly constructed and/or renovated, local and state government facility guidelines for public text telephones have been under development/review for some time.

Proposed rules, which deal with local and state facility accessibility, first appeared in the December 21, 1992 Federal Register, began to define local and state government facilities' obligations. Public comments on these proposed rules were solicited until March 22, 1992. The Access Board (also known as ATBCB - Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board) recently issued Final Rules for local and state government facilities on January 13, 1998. Final rules from the Department of Justice are expected to be issued sometime in 1998, at which time they will become enforceable. In the meantime, the Access Board's Final Rules can be used as a guideline on what local and state entities should consider.

The Access Board's Final Rules, found in the Federal Register, January 13, 1998, state:

"If an interior public pay telephone is provided in a public use area in a building of a public facility, at least one interior public text telephone (TTY) shall be provided in the building in a public use area." Effective Date: April 13, 1998.

"In stadiums, arenas and convention centers which are public facilities, at lease one public text telephone (TTY) shall be provided on each floor level having at least one interior public pay telephone." Effective Date: April 13, 1998.

"If an interior public pay telephone is provided in the secured area of a detention or correctional facility subject to section 12, then at least on public text telephone (TTY) shall also be provided in at least one secured area. Secured areas are those areas used only by detainees or inmates and security personnel." Effective Date: April 13, 1998.

Which accessibility standards have local and state government facilities been following since the ADA was implemented?

Local and state government facilities have been allowed the choice of following the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) while waiting for the Title II Final Rules. A number of states have chosen to simply adopt the ADAAG into their state building codes because it is more comprehensive and up-to-date. For this reason, you should check to determine what your state building codes require.

You should be aware that the UFAS, federal accessibility standards which have been followed by local and state government facilities since 1988, were written before a technical solution existed for provision of text telephones (TTYs) in public environments. Thus, local and state government facilities who have followed the UFAS up until now, have not been subject to scoping requirements for public text telephones or TTYs. This does not, however, excuse them from providing public text telephone access as part of "program accessibility."

Are outdoor installations of public text telephones required?

Exterior pay phone TTY access is not currently specified as a minimum requirement in the July 26, 1991 issuance of ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). At the time the ADAAG was written, technology to support installation of text telephones in outdoor or exterior locations was not available. Thus, the ADAAG issued in July of 1991 considers both interior and exterior installations in the total number of pay phones on site; however, the present regulations only mention requirement of installation of text telephones on indoor units. The Access Board established an ADAAG Review Advisory Committee in 1994. This committee has made recommendations to the Access Board that the minimum guidelines include requirements covering outdoor TTY installations since the technology to do so is now readily available.

Also, although the ADAAG does not specify outdoor TTY access, the Department of Justice regulations cover structural communications barrier removal, if readily achievable. Many states have implemented outdoor TTY access as a result.

What happens when the business day ends and the doors of those facilities that have public text telephones are locked? How does a text telephone user gain access to a public telephone?

In January 1993, the manufacturer of the first Public TTY designed for public telephone use, announced the availability of an outdoor unit designed to withstand various temperatures and humidity.

In response to the proposed rules for local and state government facilities, the Access Board received comments from a number of consumer groups expressing the need for requirements for outdoor pay phones to be text telephone accessible. Final rules on this have not yet been issued, but scoping requirements for outdoor text telephones were addressed by the Access Board's ADAAG Review Advisory Committee.

Some facilities are recognizing the availability of Public TTYs that meet the needs of an outdoor environment is now technically feasible. The Illinois highway system was the first to install numerous outdoor public text telephones at rest areas along certain highways, and the University of California has installed outdoor units on its campuses. In 1995 Virginia installed outdoor TTY access at every single rest area stop. Other states such as Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Florida, Maine, Maryland, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Kentucky have placed Public TTYs at rest area stops. There have also been a number of theme parks, University campuses and even gas stations that have moved forward to implement outdoor Public TTY access.

Does the ADA give guidance on how to approach the provision of public text telephones?

Yes, those who wrote the guidelines recognize that the installers or facility owners may have little or no experience with the usage of such a device. Thus, guidance was given on how to approach provision of public text telephone access.

The ADAAG states, "text telephones used with a pay telephone shall be permanently affixed within, or adjacent to, the telephone enclosure. If an acoustic coupler is used, the telephone cord shall be sufficiently long to allow connection of the text telephone and the telephone receiver." (Federal Register, July 26, 1991, ADAAG, Section 4.31.9)

The ADAAG also provides the option of an "equivalent facilitation." If this option is chosen, the portable TTY or text telephone must be readily available the same hours as the pay phone, and a shelf (6 inches minimum vertical clearance), an electrical outlet within or adjacent to the enclosure, and a handset cord that reaches flush against the shelf must also be available.

Permanently affixed units are preferred by most text telephone consumers because the unit is there ready to use without additional time and inconvenience involved to acquire use of the phone. A permanently affixed unit also offers hassle-free convenience to the facility owner.

Approximately how much does a public text telephone cost and are they designed to deal with the concern of vandalism?

Public text telephones have recently become more affordable. The price range for units designed for the public environment is approximately $699 - $1,495.

The public text telephones in this price range are designed for public use and constructed to reduce the chance of vandalism. There is an all-steel model designed specifically for use in public environments that installs directly to an existing payphone enclosure. It is constructed of protective materials and is vandal- and spill-resistant. These units can be attached to both credit card or coin installations and do not interrupt the use of the pay phone by a hearing person.

Some facilities have explored purchasing "lock boxes" or wooden enclosures that can be placed adjacent to the existing pay phone. Text telephones (TTYs) that are designed for residential purposes are being placed in these special boxes. The ATBCB Airport Case Study (Airport TTY Access: Two Case Studies, September 1990) showed that units designed for residential use may appear to cost less in the short term, but over time the units (especially in high traffic areas) often have parts which become subject to abuse and eventually need replacing or ongoing service. Acoustic cups are most often cited as an abused part due to open exposure to those looking for an ashtray or a place to put their gum!

Whose responsibility is it to provide the accessible telephone?

"Both the landlord who owns the building that houses a place of public accommodation and the tenant who owns or operates that place of public accommodation are public accommodations subject to requirements of this part. As between the parties, allocation of responsibility for complying with the obligations of this part may be determined by lease or other contract." — Federal Register, July 26, 1991, Section 36.201 (b).

"Allocation for the financial responsibility for complying with the ADA's requirements may be determined by the lease or other contract between them, but such an allocation is only effective as between the two parties, and both landlord and tenant remain fully liable for compliance with all provisions of the ADA. One party may require the other to indemnify it against all losses caused by the others' failure to comply with its obligations under the lease, but again, such matters would be between the two parties and would not affect their liability under the ADA." (DREDF Manual — Explanation of Contents of the ADA - Public Accommodations)

What about signage requirements?

International TTY Symbol

Signage is very important to the consumer! Otherwise, being able to locate an accessible public telephone can be difficult. Along with the installation of text telephones, new signage is also required. Telephones equipped with text telephones need to be identified by the international TTY symbol. It is also important that "directional signage indicating the location of the nearest text telephone shall be placed adjacent to all banks of telephones which do not contain a text telephone. Such directional signage shall include the international TTY symbol." (Federal Register, July 26, 1991, ADAAG).

A suggestion would be to indicate a TTY's availability on signage with the location of the public telephone by utilizing the TTY symbol.

When are the ADA requirements for public telephone access effective?


All new public accommodation and commercial facilities must follow strict standards detailed in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) published in the July 26, 1991 Federal Register if the facility is designed and constructed for first occupancy after January 26, 1993; or if their last application for a building permit or building extension for the facility is received by state, county, or local government after January 26, 1992.


Facilities that make alterations that affect the usability of the facility also need to follow the standards stated in the ADAAG effective January 26, 1992 providing it is "readily achievable" and not an "undue burden."


If a public accommodation or a public entity provides the "opportunity to make outgoing telephone calls on more than an incidental convenience basis" or provides telephone use as a part of "program access," the entity should make their facility's pay phone accessible to those with disabilities effective January 26, 1992 providing it is "readily achievable" (easy and not too overly expensive) and not an "undue burden."

How Can Ultratec Help with Compliance?

Ultratec Public TTYs and the ADA

The ADA has had a tremendous impact on public pay telephones nationwide by requiring facilities to make them accessible for people who use TTYs. This legislation specifically requires that many public facilities including hotels, hospitals, transportation facilities, schools, stadiums, convention centers and shopping malls have public text telephones available.

Public TTY ST

The Public TTY ST can be securely mounted on any payphone shelf and used acoustically with the payphone handset. Or, the TTY can also be connected for direct-connect use with the help of a payphone installer to ensure maximum clarity in communication.

Although the Public TTY ST is exposed to the public environment, it is constructed to be highly vandal resistant. The outer casing is made of steel and protected with the same protective materials use in many public telephones. The stainless steel keys are sealed within the keyboard to prevent liquid damage to the inner components of the TTY, and tempered glass is used to protect the TTY display.

The Public TTY ST is a low cost, compact design that can be easily installed independently of telephone service providers. It fits most payphone enclosures and does not affect the use of the telephone by individuals who can hear.