News – Deaf Community Given Accessible Emergency Service Notification

In New Zealand, a new system has been put in place that allows deaf or hearing impaired citizens to text emergency notifications to their 111 emergency services number.  Not only can the texts be received with the new system, but operators will be able to respond as well and keep an open line of communication with people who need help.

The system focuses on helping the deaf and hearing impaired in the community.  It is especially useful for people who find themselves in an emergency situation outside of their homes.  By allowing text messages to be received, they are no longer tethered to special fax machines or tele-typewriter phones that were typically used to contact emergency responders.  For people who may have been reluctant to leave their homes for fear that they might need help and not be able to contact someone, this really allows them to live a more fulfilling and independent life.  It’s the perfect example of using existing technology to bring accessible emergency services to the disabled community.

With the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act passing recently, we will hopefully begin to hear about services similar to this used in America.  It’s amazing that something so simple hasn’t already been implemented.  But then again, there is much work to do in many areas of American infrastructure, from crucially important services like emergency response, to something as simple as video description for our most popular television shows.  The successes of these programs are all but assured.  Now, we need to focus on the implementation of these services and features so that they are available to the public as soon as possible.

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