WHEN a deaf person’s car breaks down on a rural road in Queensland they can send an SMS for roadside assistance but, if they have a crash, they cannot seek emergency services through the same method.
Gympie MP David Gibson, a deaf community advocate with hearing-impaired parents, said deaf people were being treated like second-class citizens when this technology was being rolled out across the world.
He called on the Federal Government to deliver on a promise made in April, 2010, to provide SMS access to the national 000 emergency service.
A spokesman for Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy said applications for the recently released National Relay Service tender must specify how they would deliver text-based Triple 0 calls.
“This approach allows for applicants to provide innovative solutions and utilise modern technology in delivering this vital service,” he said.
“The government remains committed to providing mobile text-based access to emergency services for people who are deaf, hearing-impaired and/or speech-impaired.”
Mr Gibson said text-based Triple 0 calls were different to an SMS service.
Deaf Services Queensland chief Brett Casey, speaking through interpreter Leanne Beer, said this issue was particularly important in regional and remote areas, noting deaf people could not communicate with passers-by if they found themselves in trouble.
He also questioned how he would get help if he were to fall over at home, noting his children were so small they could not call on his behalf so he would be in “a very vulnerable position”.
“Our lives are at risk at the moment because we can’t access that information and the services we need to get as our hearing peers can,” he said.
Mr Gibson said a deaf woman had told him about her experience trying to find a hearing person, and communicate via written notes, when her husband was having a heart attack.
“With a heart attack, every second counts and you want to get help as quickly as possible,” he said.
“That’s what deaf people experience every day if they have to engage in 000.
“It is morally reprehensible that in an age of equality for all, the Gillard Government is willing to gamble with the lives of deaf people.
“Hearing impaired people deserve the same rights to public safety and emergency response as people who can hear.”