Regarding the lack of accessibility of information and communication in International Sign of the EU’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
20 March 2020
EMERGENCY CALL TO THE COUNCIL
Accessible emergency communication for persons with disabilities: a requirement to save lives
For many persons with disabilities, especially for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, including sign language users as well as persons who cannot communicate orally, emergency services remain inaccessible, which puts their lives in danger.
The European Accessibility (EAA) that is currently being negotiated within the EU institutions has the potential to significantly improve the accessibility of a variety of products and services, including emergency services, across the EU, by establishing common accessibility requirements for Member States. For emergency services, these are to provide, in addition to voice communication, text, including real-time text as well as video, alone or in combination as total conversation services. It is therefore a crucial opportunity to end discrimination against users with disabilities who find themselves in an emergency situation.
In order to ensure the full accessibility of emergency services, the whole chain of communication must be made accessible. Currently, obligations are foreseen for smartphone manufacturers to ensure that their devices support Real-Time Text and Total Conversation services and for electronic communication network operators to carry them through their networks. However, one crucial element is currently missing: the Council’s position - meaning the joint position of representatives from all the EU governments - on the EAA does not oblige the centres that answer emergency calls, the so-called Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), to be able to handle Real-Time Text and video communications, as they do with voice calls. If PSAPSs are not able to handle accessible communications, communications that are made though Real-Time Text or video cannot not be answered.
EUD, together with the European Disability Forum and the European Emergency Number Association, has therefore written a statement urging the Council to change its position to oblige PSAPs to be able to handle such accessible emergency communications. You find this statement attached, together with a good practice example of total conversation emergency communication created by Omnitor (voice, video and Real-Time Text).
Now we need help from the organisations that work at national level! Please share this statement as well as the good practice videos to your government’s representatives in the Council and make it visible through their social media channels!
Please share the statement and ask your government representatives to change their position to support full accessibility of emergency services by obliging PSAPs to be able to handle these accessible communications. Please also translate the statement and/or publish it on your websites and social media channels, using the hash tags #AccessibilityAct and #EmergencyCall4All. If you have contacts with journalists in your country, please also email them the statement and ask them to run a story about the topic. If national news stations talk about it, this might put pressure on the Council to change its position.
The next round of negotiations on this topic will be on the 15th of May. We therefore need you to do this until the 14th of May at the latest!
You have the unique chance to put pressure on your government to ensure accessibility of emergency services for all across Europe! If this comes from you, their voters, it will be a lot more likely that Council will feel obliged to change its position and adopt an act that will in the future allow you to contact emergency services through sign language and Real-Time-Text!
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