Guides / How Tos

Use these tips to find, purchase and get the most out of your wireless phone or handset.

Hearing Accessibility

Before Purchasing a Wireless Phone

We want wireless to be available to everyone and with so many choices in phones and services, we created this site to be a "first stop" for consumers with disabilities to search for accessible wireless products and services. Wireless manufacturers and service providers continuously update their products with more accessible features and services to fit your needs.

Don’t know where to begin? Check out the links on the right of your screen for help.

Purchasing Phones & Service

Remember you are shopping for two things when you begin your search: the wireless phone and wireless service. Use the tips below to find the best phone, carrier and pricing plan to fit your needs.

  • Assess Abilities – The right phone bridges the gap between your abilities and your needs. To find the best fit, discuss your accessibility needs with your healthcare, rehabilitation or independent living professional, such as an audiologist. Click on one of the disability categories on the right to find phone features for your particular needs.
  • Visit a Wireless Carrier’s Store –Wireless carriers try to steer each customer to their ideal phone and service plan. A representative can answer your questions and help you make the best choice.
    These educational videos will help you make the most of your visit.
    In the Beginning Your Search For The Right Wireless Device video, you will learn what to tell the carrier’s sales representatives, determine a carrier’s return or exchange policies, and look for accessibility features, such as Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC).
    In the Testing Your New Cell Phone video shows you how to test your phone in-store and at home, and how to ask about helpful accessories.
  • “Try Before You Buy” – It’s important to take a variety of cell phones for a “test drive” before making a final decision. Most wireless carrier’s stores have working phones that are ready for testing. Don’t be afraid to try several phones before deciding. Once you choose your phone, ask a store representative to help you program it for your specific needs before you leave so your phone is ready to use.
  • Apps & Assistive Technology - If a wireless phone doesn’t come with the accessibility feature you need, ask the in-store representative if it can be customized by downloading applications, or “apps.” Check out the "Get the Most" section below to find app sites and suggestions for accessible apps. Also, ask your healthcare, rehabilitation or independent living professional or wireless carrier representative about accessibility accessories and compatibility with Assistive Technology (AT) like TTYs, neckloops and Braille readers.
  • Choose a Service Plan – You’ve picked a phone; now it’s time to choose a service plan. Ask yourself the following: Do you need voice, text or data services? Would you rather have a pre- or post-paid plan? How much are you willing to pay for service? Finally, ask if the wireless carrier offers service plans specifically for seniors or individuals with disabilities.
  • Know Your Return Options – It’s important to understand the wireless carrier’s return and exchange policies before you leave in case you find another device that’s a better fit. If you do return a phone because of accessibility issues, make sure you let the store personnel know why you are bringing it back because they may be able to waive any “restocking fees.”

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Get the Most from Your Wireless Phone or Service

You’ve chosen your cell phone and wireless service … now make them work for you.

  • Apps” are an easy way to add accessibility features to your phone. Apps can be voice-control and output functions, American Sign Language (ASL) translators, IP relay services, and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) functions. Easily downloadable to many new phones, apps can also connect with a social network, recieve the latest news or provide entertainment like games and movies.

    To learn more, check out these mobile app sites:

    Apple App Store

    Android Market

    Blackberry App World

    Samsung Apps

    Windows Marketplace for Mobile

    Nokia Ovi Store

    You can also check these sites for accessibility apps and recommendations:

    Apps4Android

    Mac-cessibility Network

  • Use Service Management Tools to avoid receiving unexpected charges on your wireless plan. Many carriers allow you to cap the amount of voice minutes, texts or data you use each month. This prevents overage charges. To learn more, contact your carrier's customer care line.
  • Use Product Manuals to become familiar with, and set up, your phone. These product manuals come with your new wireless device. Many can also be found online on the manufacturers’ websites.
  • Emergency Services are available for your wireless device. In an emergency, dial 9-1-1 from your wireless device to call your local emergency provider. In some areas, you can also sign up to receive local emergency information, like traffic or weather alerts. Ask your wireless carrier how to sign up for these notifications.

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Issues & Complaints

If you have concerns about the accessibility of your wireless phone or service, tell your wireless carrier or manufacturer as soon as possible. Wireless carriers and manufacturers want to work with you to resolve accessibility issues with their phones or services. Find out how to contact your wireless carrier or manufacturer by clicking on the "Carriers & Services" or "Manufacturers" on the right side of your screen. 

If you continue to have accessibility issues with your wireless phone or service, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides information about the rules for access to telecommunications and advanced communications equipment and services by people with disabilities. Within the FCC’s Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, check out the the Disability Rights Office for information about Sections 255 and 716 of the Communications Act, advisory committees on accessibility issues, publications for consumers, and filing complaints.

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