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CRTC announces enhancements to 911 services for Canadians with hearing or speech impairments

Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced enhancements to 911 services that will enable Canadians who have hearing or speech impairments to communicate with 911 call centres via text message. Telephone and wireless companies must upgrade their networks to support this new feature by January 24, 2014.

The CRTC’s decision follows a 2012 trial to assess the feasibility of rolling out such a feature on a national basis. The trial involved the participation of telecommunications companies, Canadians with hearing or speech impairments and 911 call centres in Vancouver, Toronto, Peel Region and Montreal.

“Services such as 911 are critical to the health and safety of all Canadians,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. “This initiative is a perfect example of how technology can be used to improve access to 911 services for Canadians with disabilities. I would like to thank those who participated in last year’s trial. Its success convinced us that expanding the initiative across the country is not only possible, but also in the public interest.”

As the service becomes available in different municipalities, Canadians with hearing or speech impairments must register their mobile phone number with their wireless service provider, and ensure that they have a compatible mobile phone. In the event of an emergency, they must first dial 911, and the emergency call centre will automatically receive notification to initiate a conversation by text message.

This feature will only be available in those areas where municipal and provincial governments have made the necessary changes to their 911 call centres.

For people who are not deaf, hard of hearing or do not have speech impairments, a telephone voice call is still the only way to receive assistance during an emergency situation. Furthermore, the CRTC reminds Canadians that text messages sent to “911” do not reach emergency services.

The CRTC will examine the future of Canadian 911 services in 2014-2015. To prepare for this review, it has appointed National Commissioner Timothy Denton to conduct research on current 911 services and the issues related to the provision of such services on next-generation telecommunications networks. His recommendations will be taken into consideration when the CRTC begins its review.

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January 9, 2013

“It is a peculiar experience to walk into a full classroom and hear almost no sound, but it is one Vikki MacKay has experienced elsewhere working with deaf children in Third World countries. Unlike in Canada, there is a staggering number of Balinese children who have hearing disabilities — many of whom never learn to speak — due to genetics and tropical diseases, such as malaria. Another prominent cause includes poor medical care…” READ MORE ->

911 Emergency Services/Emergency Notifications Survey

Have you ever had problems accessing 911 emergency services or are you concerned about getting emergency notifications such as storm warnings or natural disaster alerts? Do you feel current technology is limiting your access to these services.

If you have a disability (includes those who are hard of hearing) and are interested in making 911 emergency services and emergency alerts better and would like to ensure these services meet your needs, then please take a few minutes to complete this survey.

The Neil Squire Society is looking for your opinion on how the next generation of emergency service and alerts designed to work with mobile phones should work for you. Your opinions are important.

As a thank you, all participants who complete the survey will be entered in a draw for a $200 gift certificate to The Bay Department Store. The deadline is February 15, 2012.