Text-to-911 service available for deaf and hard of hearing in Denver

AT&T/Relay Colorado, the Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and my business, Context inMedia, recently partnered to produce a commercial promoting a  text-to-911 service now available for deaf and hard of hearing people in Denver.

Before current technology, if an emergency happened, deaf and hard of hearing people faced serious challenges in contacting emergency services. Now, with various relay services – especially video relay – it’s much easier to call 911 using your videophone, computer, laptop, or mobile phone. However, internet or video relay often isn’t ideal in fast-paced emergency situations when you’re not at the address to which your VP/account is registered. And many deaf and hard of hearing people do not sign fluently and so cannot use video relay to call 911, and internet relay is notoriously slow.

This is where text-to-911 can help. No more chasing after hearing people, asking them to call for you. No more standing by at the scene of an accident, wishing you could do something but feeling you can’t, because you have no way to contact 911. Now, deaf people can step up and do it themselves!

Mobile providers are working on making text-to-911 services possible across the United States, but it’s slow going. The FCC has more information about this initiative here. In the meantime, because you still cannot text directly to 911, the Denver Office of Sign Language Services and Denver emergency services partnered to create a special number that deaf and hard of hearing Denver residents can use when an emergency occurs.

If you’re out and about in Denver and you experience or witness an accident, you can now text Denver 911 using a special number: 303-513-6909. That number will connect you to the Denver 911 call center.

Follow the steps outlined in the commercial:

  • State your location FIRST;
  • Identify yourself;
  • Briefly explain the emergency – Accident, fire, fall? Injuries?
  • When the 911 operator responds, keep your answers to any questions very short; and
  • Wait for emergency services to arrive.

Add the special number to your address book as “Denver 911” to make it easier for you to quickly find and text when an emergency happens.

For more information, you can e-mail Holly Bise, Channel Manager – Customer Information Services at AT&T/Relay Colorado, at hb2361@att.com. You can also learn more about Relay Colorado at www.relaycolorado.com.

On a personal note

This commercial was a super-fun project and a divergence from the services I typically offer through my business. It was the brainchild of Holly Bise, who works for AT&T/Relay Colorado, and CCDHH, which serves deaf and hard of hearing people in Colorado. They brought me on board to write the script – a challenge, considering I had to cram so much information into a 30-second commercial.

The first step was to come up with a storyline. At first, we debated an in-home accident involving a deaf person. Maybe a kitchen accident, or a fall down the stairs. Then we thought, maybe, a home prowler incident.

Then it hit me: Deaf people are so often portrayed as people who need to be helped. How often do we see or hear about deaf people helping OTHERS in emergency situations? The stereotypical portrayal we get is a deaf person who’s attacked or hurt and has to depend on a hearing person to call for help. And many of us have experienced situations in which we saw an accident and just passed by or stood by watching because we thought we couldn’t do anything due to communication barriers and not knowing how to contact emergency services.

U.S. Cycling Team member John Klish sprints to the finish during the men's 1000m Sprint on July 27 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Credit: Bill Millios/USADSF

U.S. Cycling Team member John Klish sprints to the finish during the men’s 1000m Sprint on July 27 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Credit: Bill Millios/USADSF

So I wrote a script in which a deaf person takes on the active role in helping an injured person after an accident. Holly and I also asked John Klish, a deaf Coloradan and a cyclist who won a gold and two bronzes in the Sofia Deaflympics this summer, to play the part of the injured person. There was a bit of humorous irony in having a gold medalist cyclist “crash,” but, hey, accidents happen all the time for serious athletes in training!

The commercial aired for a solid month on numerous cable channels throughout the Denver metropolitan area, including on ESPN (during Monday Night Football!), Discovery, CNN, The Food Network, The Travel Channel, TruTV, and HGTV. It was a thrill to see a commercial for a service for the deaf and hard of hearing, featuring an all-deaf cast, on TV, educating millions of hearing people about the things deaf people can do with the right technology and accessibility.

It was truly a pleasure to be involved in a project like this, and I hope to see similar commercials air throughout major metropolitan areas across the United States when text-to-911 services become more widely available.

I also hope people will give AT&T/Relay Colorado and CCDHH positive feedback about their efforts to provide and publicize this service. They deserve it.


1 thought on “Text-to-911 service available for deaf and hard of hearing in Denver

  1. Pingback: 911 via SMS text will be available in 2014 - AllDeaf.com

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