TUCSON, Ariz. - Many cellphone users would much rather text than talk. For deaf people that’s a necessity. But texting will not work if you have an emergency and need to contact 911.
Now local agencies are working to make it possible to text trouble to 911 and a lawsuit is providing an extra boost.
When an emergency breaks out the modern reflex is to pull out a cell phone and call 911.
But a voice call will not work for about 85 thousand Arizonans who are deaf or hard of hearing.
A text seems like the obvious answer but in most of Arizona a text won't work either.
Maricopa County began offering text to 911 after the Arizona Center for Disability Law sued.
Center attorney Rose Daly-Rooney says, “It did take a lawsuit to achieve it but I should indicate that the public entities soon after the judge dismissed, denied their motion to dismiss they came to the table and started working towards a solution."
At a Maricopa County news conference last Spring Norbert Enos spoke in sign language and said, “Thank you very much to Maricopa County and other individuals on the team that have worked together to achieve this."
Anyone could benefit from the ability to text 911 for help. Maybe there's an intruder in your house. Maybe you're in a domestic violence situation and you want to ask for help undetected but one thing we need to make very very clear: the system is not operating in this area just yet so you can not text 911 for help now.
Pima County, Tucson and other local jurisdictions were already working to add text to 911. Now as a result of the lawsuit they can tap into more than $1.3 Million the state committed to help counties across the state bring text to their systems.
Catching up with the age of the smartphone may take 911 far beyond simple texts.
Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy James Allerton says, “We hope to have the capability to accept video messaging, photographs and other types of communication so we can get some real time information and help people out as efficiently and as quickly as possible.
But just adding texts is a technical challenge and it's not clear when you'll be able to call help with your thumbs.