Access to Emergency Number ServicesBy Harkins, Judith E.; Strauss, Karen Peltz; Assistive Technology, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 13-25
Publication Date: 2008
Article traces the history of efforts to provide access to emergency number services for deaf, hearing impaired, and speech impaired individuals, discusses existing barriers to service access, and offers potential strategies to remove those barriers. The setup and operation of public safety answering points (PSAPs), commonly known as 9-1-1 centers, is outlined and the role of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in overseeing the PSAPs as well as the regulatory duties of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with regard to telecommunications companies’ interconnection with PSAPs are discussed. The rules of both agencies contributed significantly to the improvement during the 1990s of access to 9-1-1 for people with hearing and speech impairments, notably through enforcement of compatibility with text telephones (TTY). However, the article points out that PSAPs cannot be contacted via the newer forms of telecommunication such as e-mail, instant messaging, and Internet-protocol (IP) based forms or relay services, including video relay services. Greater cooperation between the DOJ and FCC is called for in order to dissolve access barriers to 9-1-1 services. Proposed solutions outlined include a specialized relay service, in a single center, that handles 9-1-1 calls and that can accept the variety of protocols used by the deaf community; the Next Generation 9-1-1 Initiative, a Department of Transportation project addressing call-routing issues related to accessibility; and advocacy by consumer groups such as the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) for federal legislation that would ensure disability access to new digital and Internet-based communication technologies expected to be used in PSAPs.
Published by: Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) (Website:http://www.resna.org)
This publication is included in the library of the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC), accession number J56229