For some people with disabilities, calling 911 in an emergency and communicating with the person on the other end of the phone is nearly impossible, but being able to access emergency services by text would change that for many people. Take for instance two plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by Disability Rights New York in New York City. According to Vocativ, one of them can't hear so when she made a 911 call, she wasn't able to answer any follow up questions. The other person cannot speak and communicates through eye-tracking software and text messaging. It's past time for them and others to be able to access lifesaving care via text message.
"Emergency services are among the most important responsibilities of government agencies, and their failure to provide 911 access to all residents leaves many people at serious risk of injury or death," the director of the disability rights group, Elizabeth Grossman, explained to Vocativ. She says people without disabilities can be confident they'll be provided the critical and timely assistance they need, but that's not the case for many people with disabilities.
The lawsuit filed by Grossman's group alleges New York City is out of compliance with federal law protecting people with disabilities.
Text-to-911 calling is already available in certain districts in at least 12 states across the country, including 11 out of New York’s 62 counties. While police representatives in Long Island, where LoGerfo lives, say that enabling this feature is currently in the works, Grossman believes it has taken long enough. The suit states that the city’s lack of a text 911 service is in violation of federal laws protecting those with disabilities.
"We believe there is no reason why Text to 911 services should not have been put in place years ago," Grossman stated. "Text to 911 is possible to implement, it’s working well, and it has provided critical assistance to people with disabilities."