Durham Deaf Services welcomes new smartphone emergency system
A local advocate for the deaf and hearing impaired is welcoming news that Durham police have introduced a texting service for 911 emergency calls.
The new texting service replaces a cumbersome process that required people with hearing or speech issues to contact an operator via landline and have that person relay their messages to 911 dispatchers, said Yvonne Brown, executive director of Durham Deaf Services.
The old system required users to make TTY calls through landlines, Ms. Brown said. The antiquated system saw users connect their phone receivers to a keyboard.
“It was time consuming and in a real emergency it could be a problem,” she said. “It’s great that they’ll now be able to speak directly to an operator.”
The new texting service was launched by Durham police at the end of September. It allows people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired to place direct 911 calls via text-enabled cellphones.
The new system requires no speech on the part of callers; incoming calls are flagged for 911 operators, who communicate via text message.
Users must register for the service with their wireless provider. More information about the service is available at textwith911.ca .
The innovation is particularly helpful at a time when many in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community are adopting cellphones as their primary means of communication, Ms. Brown said.
“TTY is becoming obsolete,” she said. “Many deaf people have made the switch to smartphones.”