June 3, 2014 8:01 pm

Coming soon: Text-to-911 for the hearing impaired in Saskatchewan

REGINA – The province is planning to implement new technology to ensure all residents are able to access emergency dispatch.

Many deaf or hard of hearing people in Saskatchewan can’t communicate with a 911 operator and are left relying on a family member or stranger.

Others may resort to using a teletype, which, according to a sign language interpreter with Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, is an already outdated technology.

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“You feel so helpless already and then to have another challenge thrown in to that is just not ideal,” Carin Nurkowski adds.

The new service is known as ‘Text to 911’ and has already been rolled out in some cities in Canada.

Duane McKay, Commissioner of Emergency Management and Fire Safety, says the idea is for a notice to appear to an operator to commence a conversation via text message when a registered resident dials 911 during an emergency.

“Because cell phones have evolved into this new format, we’re upgrading the 911 system to ensure 911 is accessible to all that need it,” he explains.

There’s no set timeline as to when the new service will be available but McKay does expect things to be up and running within the calendar year.

‘Text to 911’ for all residents within the province isn’t expected to be made available until a future date, pending the success of the new technology.

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