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Deaf People Will Soon Be Able To Contact 999 By Text

May 13, 2009

This is a great idea that will be a great help to many people. It should have been thought of long ago.

Most Londoners take it for granted they can use a phone to call 999 whenever they want, but deaf people can face difficulties.

A national trial is being launched this autumn to help deaf people send text messages to contact the police, ambulance, fire rescue and coastguard.

The new system will allow hard of hearing people to send a text to 999 to contact the emergency services.

If the trial is successful the service could be up and running in 2010.

For the estimated nine million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK the new service will transform the way they call for help in an emergency.

Currently deaf people can use a textphone to contact the Metropolitan Police, London Ambulance Service and London Fire Brigade via Text Relay.

The service, run by Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) and paid for by BT, enables people with textphones to type a message to an operator who makes the voice call on their behalf.

The downfall of this system is that a hard of hearing person without a textphone nearby would have to find someone to call 999 on their behalf.

BT advises deaf people who use an ordinary phone to call the emergency services to try to make as much noise as possible or tap on the handset, but there is a danger the operator could cut off the call if they do not believe it is genuine.

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