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Communication While Abroad for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Video Relay Service
Video Relay Service

Use a variety of technologies to ensure full communication access during your international exchange experience.

The technologies described below have proven useful for many Deaf and Hard of Hearing international exchange participants. Before you go, research your options, and whenever possible, try out different technologies to learn if they work for you!


Videophones are cell phones, televisions, other mobile devices and computers with video functionality and access to high-speed internet. Some services that you can use on your videophone include Skype, Messenger, FaceTime, Glide, OoVoo, and Google Chat. Before starting a videophone call on your device, double-check that you are using wireless. If you plan to use an existing cellular plan, know that the international charges can be prohibitively expensive. In some countries, such as Sweden and the UK, public access videophones are available in limited locations.

Video Relay Services

Video Relay Services (VRS) allow conversations between Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals and hearing individuals over the phone. When using VRS, you need a videophone (cell phone, television, etc.) with a good internet connection to place a call via VRS. A VRS interpreter relays communication between the two individuals using sign language and spoken language. Video relay services are free in the U.S. Though not available in many different countries, VRS continues to expand.

Texting Services/Technology

When traveling abroad, you might find that text messaging and chat applications that use wireless connectivity instead of data plans make communication with family and friends easier and cheaper. Some popular options include WhatsApp, Messenger, Skype, GroupMe, and Kik among others. Additionally, you may find text-based communication technologies, such as Ubi Duo, to be helpful in communicating with hearing individuals.

Captioned Phones

Though not as popular as videophones and video relay services, captioned phone technology is increasing, particularly in the U.S. A captioned telephone typically has a built-in screen and displays everything that the other person on the call says in text (captions).

Dictation Software

Occasionally, you might find that text-to-speech programs on a laptop or smartphone, such as Dragon Dictation, are helpful in one-on-one situations where you are having trouble communicating with another individual. As a person is speaking, the text-to-speech program will transcribe spoken language into text.

Mention of a resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE nor is the list exhaustive.

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