Failure of standards for the Emergency call number? What happens if you are Deaf and you cannot use it to start with?

28th June 2021

In recent years the Irish Deaf Society has made attempts to engage with the Gardaí and the Department of Communications to resolve a longstanding problem. Deaf people are not been given equal access to emergency support.

Put simply, the Gardaí rely on an outsourced service for “emergency text messages” provided by BT, known as BT ECAS (Emergency Call answering service). This service is commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications.

This service from a private company is only provided on the basis that a Deaf person pre-registers their details in order to use it.

This is a violation of Deaf people’s rights and equality and is unacceptable. Can you imagine a situation where a hearing person finds themselves in a home invasion scenario and tries to call 999 or 112 and finds that it is not possible because they have not pre-registered?

Whatever about the current scandal with 20% of emergency calls not answered, if pre-registration was required for the wider population it would be an even bigger national scandal. So why is it acceptable for Deaf people?

People do not prepare in that way for an emergency, but they need immediate and accessible ways to contact services if, and when, an emergency happens. This is a civil rights issue; all citizens should be able to contact the Gardaí in an emergency situation.

In an age of sophisticated texting technology it beggars belief that this situation persists and every day it is putting people’s lives in danger.

We are leaving Deaf people behind because they cannot send a simple text for an emergency. In the UK, Ofcom forces all UK broadband and phone providers to offer a free, 24/7 video relay service for British Sign Language (BSL) users to contact the emergency services, via a dedicated mobile app and website. Why not here and why not now?

The Irish Deaf Society calls on Minister Humphreys, the Garda Commissioner and the Department of Communications to urgently implement technology solutions that exist elsewhere in order to address this serious risk to Deaf people’s safety.

– Lianne Quigley, Chairperson and Spokesperson, Irish Deaf Society


#ISL #DeafAccess #EqualityForAll #DeafRights #HumanRights #CivilRights

Irish Deaf Society