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August 13, 2005

Emergency service to help the deaf

From: Leeds Today, UK - Aug 13, 2005

by Bruce Smith

A NEW 999 service that will allow deaf, hearing impaired and speech impaired people to contact emergency services via mobile phone text messaging has been launched by West Yorkshire Police.

The new system will give deaf, hearing impaired and speech impaired people the facility to report emergency situations, either as a victim or a witness, and get the relevant help from the police without having to rely on someone else to contact 999 for them.

A national 999 text messaging service is now in the planning stages, but it is expected to be some years before it comes into service.

Rather than wait for this, the Leeds Society for Deaf and Blind People, which provides social work services with deaf people on behalf of Leeds City Council Social Services, worked in partnership with West Yorkshire Police to set up the region's own system.

Robert Edmunds, communications supervisor in the Force's communications division, has pushed forward the introduction of the system together with Chris Bojas, a social worker from Leeds Society for Deaf and Blind People. Mr Bojas made the first approach by contacting Mr Edmunds after he saw a similar service running in other counties.

Mr Edmunds said: "For the first time within West Yorkshire, people who are deaf, hearing impaired or speech impaired and have access to a mobile phone will be able to report emergency 999 situations which involve themselves or others.

"They will have the facility to have a two-way conversation via SMS text message to pass information and get the necessary response from the police.

Mr Bojas added: "I am very excited by this new service, which will enable these people to gain equal access and become more independent.

"I am looking forward to our partnership with West Yorkshire Police, and am gratified that the deaf, hearing impaired and speech impaired communities can now take control of their own security without reliance on a third party.

"We are setting new standards for good practice early in the project by making this new service information as accessible as possible for these communities to ensure the wellbeing of people of all ages, including children."

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