Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) Overview

The Clear2Connect Coalition advocates for equitable, effective, and accessible communications technology, including Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS).

Captioned Phone Calls: What They Are and How They Work

This service allows a person with hearing limitations to use their voice to speak to someone on the phone. When that person responds, the caller can simultaneously listen to the person’s voice and read real-time captions of what the person is saying—a necessity to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities. 

When the caller dials a phone number, the call is automatically routed through a call center. Once the two callers are connected, speech is captioned at the call center and the text is sent back to the IP CTS user’s phone or app in real-time. 

Captioning for the IP CTS user occurs through either a combination of advanced automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology and a skilled transcriber or ASR technology only.

Captioned telephone service is funded by a small charge on American consumers’ phone bills. Provided by several different vendors, it is available at no cost to eligible Americans. 

Please note that the FCC requires applicants to self-certify that they are a person with hearing loss who depends on captions to use the phone effectively. The service provider will collect this information upon registration. A physician, audiologist, or other hearing-health professional may also certify, on your behalf, that you have hearing loss that necessitates the use of a communication relay service and refer you to a provider.

Need captions to use the phone? Learn how to access captioned telephone service!

The Law

Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, all U.S. telephone companies are required to provide telecommunications relay services (TRS)—these services, administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), enable people with various communication needs to make calls on the phone.

Under Title IV of the ADA, Americans who experience a hearing and/or speech disability have a right to access telecommunications services that are “functionally equivalent” to those relied upon by consumers without such disabilities.

Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) and captioned telephone service (CTS) are forms of TRS. IP CTS uses the internet, rather than a telephone network, to connect the user to the service provider (captioning vendor). CTS does the same, just via a traditional telephone network, not the internet.

Under Title IV of the ADA, Americans who experience a hearing and/or speech disability have a right to access telecommunications services that are “functionally equivalent” to those relied upon by consumers without such disabilities. 

The Importance of Accuracy, Quality, and Accessibility

These captions must be accurate, especially when users speak with health care providers and emergency responders. With misspellings and inaccuracies, users are unable to know if they should take 0.25 mg or 2.5 mg of their medication, if their dentist appointment is at 12:30 pm or 2:50 pm, or if they should call Sonia or Cynthia to discuss a business deal. 

The FCC has yet to put necessary and rigorous quality metrics and standards in place to ensure accuracy. So the likelihood a user takes the wrong amount of medication, misses a dentist appointment, or embarrassed themselves when calling a client is high. Americans with disabilities deserve more. Americans with disabilities deserve better.

Captioned Telephone Service Users

Because of captioned telephones, more than 500,000 Americans with hearing loss are able to have conversations on the phone and understand what the other party is saying—equitably and effectively. While seniors account for the majority of users, younger Americans with hearing loss also benefit from the service. In fact, many captioned telephone users are Veterans, among whom tinnitus and hearing loss are the most prevalent service-connected disabilities.

TRS, such as IP CTS, are essential to the communities that rely on them. This is especially true for those in underserved communities and those impacted by health disparities. Because these services are provided at no cost to those who need them, IP CTS reaches across equity barriers to ensure that everyone can stay connected and communicate with family, friends, healthcare professionals, and emergency first responders.

The impact of IP CTS is best illustrated through the voices of the hundreds of thousands of everyday Americans, including Veterans, who rely on these services. Here are just a few of their stories.

IP CTS Helps Americans Stay Safe and Secure youtube video
IP CTS Benefits Veterans youtube video
IP CTS Lets Seniors Keep in Touch youtube video
IP CTS Helps Connect with Customers youtube video

Captioned Telephone Service Providers

The FCC considers consumer choice an important part of the process, which is why Clear2Connect works to educate people on the different options. 

  1. Select a provider.
  2. Follow the prompts to register and self-certify as a person with hearing loss.
  3. Make a phone call with ease!

There are a variety of captioned telephone service providers including:

CaptionCall by Sorenson logo
CaptionMate logo
ClearCaptions logo
Hamilton CapTel logo
Hamilton Relay logo
InnoCaption logo
Nagish logo
NexTalk logo
RogerVoice logo