Deaf People Can Finally Access 999 Calls And It’s About Time

We don’t know why it took so long, but deaf people now have access to 999 emergency services.

Previously you could only call the police and ambulance or fire brigade by sound, but today a new BSL-friendly new service is being introduced.

People can download and use an app to communicate with a BSL interpreter, who then relays the information to the emergency services. Ofcom, the communications regulator, says phone and broadband companies are required to offer the free 24/7 video calling service to BSL users.

Previously, deaf people could only reach 999 via SMS, but this only worked if you had previously registered. So those who needed access but hadn’t registered had to find an alternative way to get help, which could be disastrous in an emergency.

Additionally, the texting service only works in English, which means even non-speakers might have trouble communicating their situation and needs.

It was the result of a long campaign by deaf organizations and individuals, including the national charity for hearing loss, RNID, and Sign Health, the charity for the deaf, with many people involved shout out their work on Twitter.

Ofcom estimates the deployment could help save at least two lives each year, and police forces across the country have shared links to the service.

The 999 BSL app is welcome news for the deaf community who finally have a service that meets their needs in an urgent situation.

Charity Action Deafness is hosting parties for the deaf communities of Walsall, Worcester and Oxford on Friday 17 June to celebrate their launch.

The charity told HuffPost UK: “Action Deafness is incredibly excited to celebrate the launch of the new 999 BSL, the UK’s first Video Relay Service (VRS) connecting the deaf with the emergency services (Police, Ambulance, Fire and Coast Guard). British Sign Language (BSL) remote interpreter.

“We’re celebrating with the deaf community through a series of opening parties in Worcester, Walsall and Oxford and will be joined by members of the Ambulance Services.”

This is another important milestone in improving access for the estimated 90,000 deaf people in the UK, following Parliament’s recent historic decision to recognize British Sign Language as the language of Britain for the first time. The British Sign Language (BSL) Act came into force on April 28, 2022 after decades of campaigning by the deaf community.

Annie Harris, Advocacy Officer at RNID, told the Times: “Anyone who needs ambulance services is faced with a difficult, distressing and potentially life-threatening situation. Everyone needs timely and easy access to emergency services and it is excellent news that deaf people will now have equal access to 999 in their native language.

“We’re proud to be part of this life-saving campaign, and we hope this important step will be followed by increased awareness of the deaf among emergency services workers, so that deaf people in emergency situations can get the support they need.”

The British Sign Language (BSL) Act was passed on April 28, 2022 after decades of campaigning by the deaf community. Deaf People Can Finally Access 999 Calls And It’s About Time

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