Tuesday, June 2, 2015

In which .@macjbby provides me with another use case for text to 911

This morning, I posted something on my tymshft blog. One of the recurring themes on tymshft is the old practice of having telephones that were attached to the walls of a house. Such a limitation is inconceivable today, but on the other hand, the idea that people would carry phones around everywhere was absurd when I was growing up. Even people with car phones (phones as big as a car) were few and far between, because you had to be incredibly rich to own a car phone. True story: back in the 1980s, when you had to attach car phone antennas to your car for the phone to work, people would buy fake car phone antennas so that it looked like they were so rich that they owned a car phone.

But I digress.

Anyway, I like to write about phones on tymshft, especially when the posts bring up "get off my lawn" moments. My latest post, sourced from the Asbury Park Press, discusses the ability to send a text message to 911 instead of a voice message. As I wrote the post, I thought that I (well, Jim Walsh from Asbury Park) had covered every possible use case, both pro and con, regarding text to 911.

As I read the article, I caught a couple of Walsh's pro arguments - some people (primarily the young) prefer text to voice, and in some hostage-ish situations, texting works better than voice calls. I also noted a big con - if the dispatcher has questions about the original request, it will take longer to get the information via text than via voice.

However, I glossed over one of Walsh's arguments. But before I talk about that, let me share a tweet that I received this morning from Jeffrey Beatty in response to the tymshft post.

@empoprises Text to 911 would be much faster and accurate than by voice. I support SMS Text 911 + GPS apps to 911 Ctr

Nice response, I thought, but what motivated him to write it? Is he in the industry, and trying to promote a particular feature for texting and GPS?

So I began looking at his other tweets, such as a retweet of something from Kathryn Woodcock. She linked to a Toronto Star article:

A registered nurse in the Philippines, Talosig, 38, came to Canada in 2007 under the then live-in caregiver program. In 2010, she submitted her application for permanent resident status after fulfilling the required employment hours.

After waiting for five years, she recently received a letter from the immigration department informing her that her 14-year-old daughter Jazmine has been determined to be inadmissible to Canada because officials speculated that her deafness could cost Canadians $91,500 for health-related services over five years.

That's when I realized why Beatty is so interested in text to 911. It's because for deaf people, the current voice to 911 system is clunky.

In the current 911 system, deaf and hearing-impaired callers must use a teletypewriter (TTY) text telephone device or a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) to contact 911 in an emergency. These devices, invented in the 1960s, allow two users to type messages to each other, but are cumbersome and slow to operate.

In case you're wondering, it turns out that you can get a TTY device for a cell phone. One available model looks something like this:

Obviously, use of a phone's texting capabilities would be preferable to THAT.

Man, I thought to myself, that Jim Walsh article missed that whole use case!

Then I re-read the Walsh article:

(911 texting) also would benefit people with speech or hearing disabilities...

Egg on my face...
blog comments powered by Disqus