New 999 text system means deaf young people no longer need Lassie

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

One of the few things that has – up to now – annoyed me about my deafness is that I would probably be pretty useless in the event of an emergency. Not because I’m the kind of guy who would run around screaming, just begging to be slapped to my senses. But because there is no real way I could call 999 if I was out and about. I would either have to hope that someone else is around who could dial for me. Or just dial 999 and not say anything and hope that someone turns up (which I’ve never found very reassuring). For deaf children and young people, the absence of an accessible alternative is not something which helps them develop a sense of independence and self-reliance. In the absence of a Lassie-type creature to convey the need for assistance through a knowing look at strangers, deaf young people as as as disabled and helpless as they can be. Which I don’t like.

So I’m very happy about the news that a new 999 text system is being trialled. You have to register first but after that you can get help by texting 999 and a message will be passed to the emergency services. Their website has more information about how to register and what to say in a text in the event of an emergency. If the trial is a success, it will be properly launched in 2010. It’s a really important step forward. Here’s hoping it’s a success.


7 thoughts on “New 999 text system means deaf young people no longer need Lassie

  1. It’s not a new system, but a more ‘global one’. Consensus is deaf do not take to dedicated systems much, as I stated in my blog, take up is very poor after already a few years running, around 15%. Minicoms were planted everywhere, access to 999 via typetalk etc, take up is abysmal from the deaf areas, minicoms gathered dust, were unused, faxes were sporadic, abused, and hardly ever manned by the police except in ‘working’ hours 9 am till 3 pm and not then at weekends or evenings, pointless. Deaf are notorious for wanting access and then never using it, they just see it as a right, whether they want to use it or not. A woman suffered abuse in my deaf club, she rejected the text 999 system by police and I was there and took it, so had no-one to phone but her relatives,who then had to phone police, so a lot is sheer bad habits by deaf people who will insist on going to family before anything, this zeroed demand and take up, and will continue to do so. Ofcom slated typetalk on 15 counts, I am surprised they are still supporting the RNID involvement in yet another totally unresearched area of access. Talk-by-text is iffy too… While there are those who suggest if it saves ONE life it is is worth it, one wonders what the service provision thinks of near 80% of deaf people not bothering to use services given them. The 999 area is the most vital access deaf can get, yet they show bare interest in it when push comes to shove, because they have established their own systems while the system wasted years getting around to setting one up, it may be too late already to make wider use of it. It could go the way of TT and minicoms. Personally I would NOT support a deaf-only system, because there are probably MORE HI who would use this than the signing deaf, yet have not been offered it… tiered access isn’t something I go for.

  2. MM,

    Hearing people do that too. A lot of people rather call their friends or family rather than calling 911. A lot of time they don’t even file the reports themselves.

    I think I remember reading somewhere that 80% of abuses go unreported across the board. So if 80% of the deaf don’t use it, then that would be consistent with the statistics. Yes, deaf demand equal access and don’t use them, however they are humans. So when they do get equal access, they will use them just like anyone else.

  3. Can’t get equal access to emergency services here, too many problems with it, because deaf rely on technology to do this, and that technology is being exploited by spoilers, few trust it and stay with what they know. They also know if the police, fire or Ambulance turns up, there will STILL be no-one to sign to them, that is also a great deterrent for not calling direct, and why they perhaps will NOT use the equal access provided, since without the back up deaf won’t see the value… so they AREN’T Using what we have now as access.. everything else has to be there too so they will feel if an emergency occurs communications and support is there too, at present it isn’t. It’s not helped by a call going to the police, and them ringing back saying can you leave it until tomorrow ? we haven’t got any terps here ….

  4. Here in the USA, the 911 system isn’t universal across the country, but in counties where it is well-managed and fine-tuned, it works wonderfully. Just call the number and even if no one speaks on the phone, a police officer will appear at the address within ten minutes. If there is TTY access, it goes to a TTY operator almost immediately and the first response is “what is your emergency?”

    Even though we have more videophones, it is not as widespread as the TTY is at this time, and many videophone users are phasing out their TTYs. It is possible to call 911 by videophone. One needs to pre-register one’s number and correct address, so that the 911 call goes immediately to a video relay operator rather than entering a wait which could last for a few minutes.

    As happened with the TTY in many cases, if it is not used enough, people forget how to receive TTY calls and hang up on them. We will have to see how it develops from this point on when it concerns 911 (999) and TTYs and videophones.

  5. Convincing deaf to drop family support in preference to an established system is proving difficult. As with the USA TTY is dead as a means of deaf contact mostly. I think mobile texting killed it off, but deaf just went to texting relatives not the 999, because relatives offer the back up the system doesn’t. The typetalk system in the UK Offered access to the police years ago, there was little take up of it. As for videophones, I am pessimistic deaf will make usage of this either. My defa club offered free classes in usgae and installed one at the social services office, it is unused, and the class take up is virtually nil. Not that I am up to date with mobiles and such but do they not also offer video links options ? You can be sure deaf are well up with it ! We are approaching decent debates as to if really deaf want access as per equality, or just as a means between themselves ? I had installed dozens of minicoms in jmy arae when they first came out in general usage here, I was told that despite intensive awareness being made to deaf and the system, take up was abysmal and usage near non-extant. After 2 years they were doisconected because they had only 3 calls a year in the employment and other areas I lobbied them to be in. Deaf simply refused to use them for access. I’ve been reluctant since to support campaigns for this type of access, I learnt my lesson at that time that unless you can do a comperhensive survey and determine what they do use now, then it is pretty pointless. Ofcom is responding to some deaf who say they want access to 999, it is only those deaf who haven’t yet got it, but how many will use it when the need arises if the back up isn’t there ? 80% have not show interest it is a huge negative against then isn’t it ? We have to go right back to re-educating deaf people, to stop using and then totally relying on systems that presently work for them, going to be very hard to do that ! first instinct is to text your family if they aren’t there, or, ask a child or something to phone, and they, will TALK not text. Deaf are texting each other, no-one else !

  6. I agree with the above post. Personally I cannot understand why you would not want to make an effort in this regard anyway. Only the other day, at work we had exactly the same conversation and came to a similar decision

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