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No way to call: How the local deaf community gets emergency assistance

By Rich Wisniewski
summarized by Joelle Chasse, staff writer

In Louisiana, only two parishes offer texting 911 as an option: Tangipahoa and St. Helena. In other areas of Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, deaf people often run into problems accessing emergency assistance.

Rob Porter, a deaf man from Baton Rouge, has had multiple emergency situations which could have been alleviated more easily by access to 911, Fox44 reports. When initially moving to Baton Rouge, the U-Haul he had rented broke down and caught aflame on the interstate. “I had to pull over and was just standing there and had no way to text or anything,” he states. “I just waited and waited.”

Porter was stranded until a friend driving by happened to see him and called for help.

Another woman, Jennifer Lash, has been deaf since she was 18 months old. While attending college in Washington DC, Lash was mugged.

“I couldn’t hear what the robber was saying, I couldn’t hear anything, I just gave him everything and then he ran way and I just hoped he didn’t come back for me,” she recalls.

Situations like these illuminate why the Deaf community is pushing for a 911 system that allows texting.

In Baton Rouge, a text to 911 results in a returned message that states: “Please make a voice call to 911. There is no text service to 911 available at this time.” For someone with no other option, this could be the difference between life and death.

Louisiana State Representative Pat Smith promises to work with state lawmakers to solve this problem. “Once [other lawmakers] realize there is a need for individuals in this position, who can’t hear, but need to have access to safety, to law enforcement…then we have to address the issue,” she states.

Presently, four of the major cell phone companies are cooperating with officials to provide a text-911 service in the future.

For the full article here.

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