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January 3, 2005

Tippah County making sure deaf have access to 911

From: Biloxi Sun Herald, MS - Jan 3, 2005

Associated Press

RIPLEY, Miss. - Officials say Tippah County's 911 service has been upgraded to make sure citizens with hearing problems can communicate with dispatchers in an emergency.

"We've had the equipment a long time but found it wasn't in good working order and replaced it," said Chief Deputy Roy Shappley, who is in charge of the service.

Benecia Barkley, also with the sheriff's department, said officials asked BellSouth to get the 911 equipment operating properly.

The equipment, called a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, or TDD, is commonly used by deaf or hearing-impaired people to communicate with each other as well as to reach emergency services, government offices or businesses.

"The machine is like a regular phone with a keyboard on it," Barkley said. "You pick up the receiver and type. This machine didn't have a printer, but we write down everything when somebody calls 911 anyway. Since we were typing we couldn't write ... we had to get a dot-matrix printer and the right kind of adapter from the company that has a TDD machine."

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that government agencies provide access through the special equipment.

"We have two 911 operators so we also purchased a new Ultratec," Barkley said. "It looks more like a small typewriter with a screen on it and it has a place that looks like a cradle for a handset on the phone. When we pick up the 911 phone and hear the beep, we can put the handset in the cradle."

The county saved money by reconditioning the old equipment and buying only one completely new system, Barkley said.

Officials said the challenge for the department now is to let deaf and hearing impaired people know they may be eligible to receive a TDD device through the state at no cost.


Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal,

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