Lawsuit demands text-to-9-1-1 capability in Arizona

Text Access to Emergency Assistance
Text Access to Emergency Assistance

Federal disability discrimination law mandates that the state of Arizona allow people with disabilities the opportunity to call 9-1-1 via text message, a new lawsuit alleges, filed in federal court February 11.

“9-1-1 is a critical life-saving program that should be accessible to everyone without exception,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf, in a news release. “With nearly everyone using text, there is no excuse for 9-1-1 not to be directly accessible by text.”

The NFD, represented by Arizona Center for Disability Law and Stein & Vargas, argues that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the state provide equal access to services for people with disabilities, including relatively new services, such as text-to-9-1-1 capability.

In May 2014, the Federal Communications Commission rolled out a new plan to equip 9-1-1 centers with text-to-9-1-1 capability. The initial roll-out included service in parts of 16 states, including the full state of Vermont. All four of the nation’s major wireless carriers support the service.

On its website, the FCC warns that voice calls are still “usually the most efficient way to reach emergency help,” but noted the importance of the service to people who are “deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability,” as well as for situations where calling 9-1-1 is “dangerous or impossible.”

“Direct and immediate access to critically necessary emergency services must be available to all,” said Michael Stein, a partner at Stein & Vargas, LLP, in the news release. “There is no time to waste in making sure every individual has access to 9-1-1 emergency services.”

A list of areas where text-to-9-1-1 services are available is posted on the FCC website.

Arizona Center for Disability Law and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Arizona and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.