Tune in this Sunday's Programme at 10.40am on RTÉ One as we look at the feature length programme on access to the emergency services and bring you an update on what's happened since.
How do you call 999 if you're Deaf?
Hands On tackles a topic that could be a matter of life or death for Deaf people and their families.
When the worst happens, for a hearing person, the Gardaí, Ambulance and Fire Brigade are just a phone call away, but what if you're Deaf, and can't use the phone? How can you call for help if you or your family is in trouble?
When Bernadette Power's father collapsed, only she and her Deaf siblings were at home. She tried using Eircom's 999 Minicom relay service to contact an ambulance but no one answered.
When we first broadcast this programme, presenter, Julianne Gillen, tried to ring the dedicated minicom number to demonstrate how it works on the programme, and couldn't get through; when we asked Eircom how they could allow a situation to arise where, for that period, no Deaf person in Ireland could independently get help in an emergency, the reason they gave was that, an Eircom operator "failed to relinquish (a previous) call"! They promised it wouldn't happen again and that their operators would be retrained and the line tested frequently, however 7 months on, Hands On tested the number several times in one week and on each occasion it was engaged. When we tried the regular relay service, and asked them to put us through it took us 10minutes of convincing them before they agreed! This delay could be the difference between life and death for a Deaf person in an emergency situation. As Eircom's emergency call answering service contract is due to end, it looks like BT will be taking over the system next year, will they put this to stop and provide access to 999 for Deaf people?
We also asked Eircom, how would Deaf people contact the emergency services should their house catch fire or if they were in a car accident, when the service depends entirely on a landline? We ask Eircom and An Garda Siochana why an alternative method for Deaf people to contact 999 has not been explored, especially when considering the fact that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been operating a successful emergency SMS service for the Deaf community there since 2004. The PSNI provided all their information to the GardaÌ on setting up the service 4 years ago, and one ray of hope is that the Gardaí recently met with the IDS and PSNI in relation to providing better access to the emergency services.watch this space.
What if you need to contact 999 before the new service comes into place? Well systems such as Voicetext, European Relay Service, Eircom phonewatch and Isle Systems can be used for getting help in an emergency but they can be expensive and time consuming - when for a hearing person the 999 service is free! See the details below if you'd like to have a few options available to you in the mean time:
A newly developed VoiceText system has been set up providing Deaf access to ALL phones and allowing Deaf people to contact emergency 999 operators effectively directly from their mobile using text messaging.
The service launched in Ireland combines all the advantages of voice
calls, with the convenience of text messaging into a single hybrid service.
You can access this service by VoiceText on their website
European Relay Service
This makes and receives phone calls easily on web or mobile anywhere in the world. It will depend on Internet broadband connection and speed. Due ERS being web based ERS can't provide emergency service without government support and security reasons.
Eircom phone watch
Grant scheme details, application forms and further information, including a list of organisations and groups - funded under the 2005 scheme of Community Support for Older People - are available from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Visit their website at www.pobail.ie
Isle Systems we have developed a range of personnel safety and asset security systems and can be achieved through voice calls or text messages from standard mobile or fixed phones. All incoming voice and SMS alerts are recorded and relayed to response personnel. Routing of alerts can be determined by the callers phone number, SMS message text content or by not responding to a timed alert.
Other useful Links:
European Relay Service: http://www.e-t-t.eu/
Comreg (Communications Regulator): www.comreg.ie
If you want to purchase a minicom, or if you would like to register for the Caredoc service, call into your local Deafhear office: http://www.deafhear.ie
Write to the Department of Communications to make sure they set up the right provisions so Deaf people can have access to the 999 emergency service