transcript Overview of MCDHH’s Communication Access, Training and Technology Services (CATTS)


Thank you for your interest in learning more about the MCDHH CATTS department.

People who have not heard our name before always do a double take when we mention CATTS, but this has nothing to do with felines – it stands for Communication Access, Training and Technology Services.

CATTS has been one of MCDHH’S core programs from the very beginning of the agency, as it provides public education, research and training on issues faced by Deaf, oral deaf, hard of hearing and late deafened individuals., While the Commission for the Blind (MCB) is the lead agency for the Deafblind community in Massachusetts our CATTS team also educates people on the needs of Deafblind individuals

CATTS works closely with the Deaf and hard of hearing communities to identify areas in which we can provide solutions to common problems. One successful example is the Modern Guide to Hearing Loss, this resource has been printed under different names for over 15 years now, with the latest update in print right now. The current book is full of information that is helpful for people new to hearing loss,  and helps them navigate the complex and confusing world of technology, services, programs and resources – best of all, it is free, and it can be obtained as a hard copy or downloaded, in electronic format, from our website.

Another major focus of the CATTS department is working with the law enforcement community, and we have been extremely fortunate to establish productive and ongoing relationships with the Massachusetts State Police as well as the Municipal Police Training Committee and the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.

Members of the Deaf and hard of hearing communities in particular have been concerned about how to make interaction with the police more safe and effective. 

Since most Deaf individuals use American Sign Language to communicate, and very few police officers know ASL, a visual tool that helped to communicate some of the most common roadside situations made sense. 

With extensive input from the community, particularly the Worcester City Deaf Task Force, the CATTS department built on resources already available in other states, and created the Visor Card with accompanying instructions. 

To date, approximately 7,500 have been distributed to the Massachusetts State Police and local city and town police forces throughout the Commonwealth, many of whom are keeping them in their police cruisers so they are better prepared to safely and efficiently engage in communication with Deaf and hard of hearing people during roadside interactions. 

The visor card has also been extremely popular with our Deaf and hard of hearing constituent with 5,000 distributed via mail, public events pre-pandemic, and through our community partners agencies. 

Although the Visor Card is intended to be used during traffic stops and roadside emergencies, its public rollout increased awareness of communication access in law enforcement circles and opened the door to many additional comprehensive trainings to Officers across Massachusetts. 

Visor Cards are available, to both individuals and law enforcement, and can be requested by emailing

As COVID-19 gripped our Commonwealth in March, we realized that the highly contagious nature of the disease would provide significant changes to in-person communication services in medical settings. It was no longer easily possible to have ASL interpreters and Communication Access Realtime Translation providers in the room with sick individuals because of the extreme contagiousness of the virus. Face coverings, although necessary to minimize spread of the disease, also presented additional challenges. Masks worn over the mouth and nose muffled sound, made it impossible to speech read and made it difficult to see expressions, which are essential for individuals who use American Sign Language.

CATTS staff acted quickly and within two weeks produced the COVID-19 Communication Card, an icon-based document that allowed healthcare providers to communicate with Deaf, oral deaf, hard of hearing and late deafened individuals non-verbally to obtain and provide vital health information when no other form of visual communication access was readily available. This COVID-19 card became the single most widely used tool MCDHH has ever produced, with 80,000 views on our Facebook page alone, thousands of shares, and so much interest from the medical community that we had help from major hospitals in translating the COVID-19 Communication tool into 8 different languages. We have learned that the card is being used by individual organizations and agencies in at least 21 other states and even internationally in at least 5 other countries. It has also been highlighted by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) in their situational awareness bulletins. View and download your copy of the COVID-19 card or any of 8 languages, large print, or screen reader accessible versions at the MCDHH web site at

These accomplishments are possible by our CATTS team working closely with our constituency on the one hand, and from our close working and strong collaborative relationships with other state agencies, public and private programs, the healthcare and first responder community, and our dedicated law enforcement community. These partnerships are what get us in the door to provide training on communication access and communication technology, and they are the single most important resource for continued success.

Additionally, CATTS also answers questions from the general public, and provides a variety of services such as workplace assessments, individual technical support and training, guidance to other state agencies and organizations on best communication access practices. We also produce many of MCDHH’s vlogs, like this one, and help others create their own accessible media, we include American Sign Language (ASL), Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI), and Captions to meet the needs of all Deaf and Hard of Hearing residents.

I hope that this has been informative, and encourage you to contact us. Our contact information is at the end of this video. Thank you !

Thank you to our community members, our many community partners – including our State Advisory Council and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Independent Learning Services, the dedicated sister agencies in the Commonwealth, and of course the continued support provided by Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito and Secretary Sudders.

Thank you very much!