Smart911 for Callers with Disabilities

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Recently, a deaf woman lost her home and three pets to a fire. It remains unknown as to whether or not she called 911, however, her neighbors say that she can be very hard to understand. Fire Chief Tom Jenkins mentioned the fact that if an emergency call comes in, the location of the caller can be traced even if the caller hangs up. However, if the caller is calling from a cellular device, this presents problems for the current system.

There is new emergency technology on the horizon, Smart911, which will enable people to text 911 for emergencies and to send in information. It will also be an option to input information into a secure website that will be viewable to the respondent taking the emergency call. For a disabled or confused caller, the dispatcher will be able to see his/her medical profile which will increase the likelihood that the proper attention is given for the specific emergency at hand.

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.