It is sometimes easy to forget that people who are deaf or hard of hearing did not have access to the telephone network until the TTY was developed in the 1960s and nationwide relay services began in the 1990s. Similarly, closed captions for television were developed in the 1970s, became available on a limited, voluntary basis in the 1980s with the use of closed caption decoder equipment, and were finally required and made available through built-in television caption decoder systems in the 1990s. Likewise, going to the movies was not possible until the development of captioned film prints in the 1980s and caption display systems in the late 1990s. The exclusion of generations of deaf and hard of hearing people is something to be remembered so as not to be repeated.
At the same time, and perhaps due in part to this history, people who are deaf or hard of hearing were early and eager adopters of accessible text-based communication and information systems, such as pagers, e-mail, instant messaging, and the Internet, as well as early adopters of videophones.
Today, we have assistive listening technologies, real-time captioning services, Internet captioning applications, movie caption display systems, a wide range of relay services that provide access to the telephone network, digital televisions with digital captions, and video remote interpreting services.
The NAD advocates for and looks forward to an even brighter future where new technologies take root and tumble communication barriers to ensure equal access for deaf and hard of hearing people and full participation in all aspects of American life. At the same time, the NAD seeks to ensure that new technologies, applications, and equipment are accessible, available, and affordable to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.