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Advancing Inclusive Emergency Responses – how can we make the emergency 112 number is accessible for deaf people across the EU?

EUD

On 7th May 2024, EUD followed the AccessibleEU Centre’s most recent European level event on “Advancing Inclusive Emergency Responses for Persons with Disabilities”. This event was hosted in collaboration with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA). The AccessibleEU Centre was launched in July 2023 and is a flagship initiative of the EU Commission’s Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030. It is an online resource centre on accessibility working on areas such as built environment, transport, information and communication technologies to ensure the participation of persons with disabilities, including deaf people, in all areas of life on equal basis with others.  

As emergencies become more frequent, Europe faces heightened risks. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure the full accessibility of all emergency services across the EU, in the respective national sign languages, for deaf people. For instance, ensuring the emergency 112 number has video relay services to provide national sign language interpretation. Currently, most EU Member States only offer voice call and/or SMS services via the 112 number. For deaf people, this is not accessible as this means they are unable to use their native languages to communicate in emergency situations which is of particular importance when in urgent and pressurised circumstances. 

EUD is delighted to report that the first half of this event had a strong focus on ensuring the accessibility of emergency services to deaf people. Specifically, the various speakers highlighted factors such as the importance of a human rights approach rather than a humanitarian approach to emergency response; the need for comprehensive data and funding to improve such services for persons with disabilities, including deaf people; enhancing accessibility in emergency call centres; and the potential of video relay services. 

EUD looks forward to working more closely with the representatives at both the AccessibleEU Centre, in Fundación ONCE, and with EENA in order to bring the deaf perspective to all future developments on this crucial topic. As it stands, the lived situation of deaf people in emergency situations does not align with the EU’s goal to leave no one behind. 

All the publications from 2022 - 2026 are co-funded by and produced under the European Commission’s Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) Programme.

Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission’s CERV Programme. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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