Diversity & Inclusion
DEI / Municipal government / Public safety

911 texting a step toward Delaware’s accessibility goals

The state's Text to 911 service is key for people with hearing impairments, and can also be a lifesaver in situations where a person needs to reach 911 without being heard.

Delaware's 911 service just got more accessible. (Photo by Flickr user Jay Peg, used under a Creative Commons license)

Delaware has made a commitment to accessibility in 2018, including the Open Data Challenge, which aims to help make the state the most accessible in the country by addressing the issue with DelDot and DNREC.

With the March 5 announcement that the State of Delaware now has a Text to 911 feature, we’re getting closer.

Text to 911 had its initial launch in 2014, with the FCC encouraging call centers to accept texts in addition to phone calls. As of 2018, most states have Text to 911 in at least one county, but Delaware is one of the few to offer it statewide.

(Click here to view a regularly-updated interactive map of call centers in the U.S. with Text to 911 service.)

Implementing Text to 911 increases accessibility by serving about 10,000 Deaf and hard-of-hearing Delawareans, as well people with speech difficulties and other barriers to speaking on the phone.

The feature can also be a lifesaver in situations where a person needs to reach 911 without being heard, notably domestic violence situations, which often go unreported when they require speaking to a dispatcher out loud.

Text to 911 is still a developing technology with limitations, however. Text messages don’t send out location data the way mobile calls do, so texters should begin their texts with the location, if known. If the location is unknown, such as in an abduction situation, you can call 911 and leave the line open for as long as possible (even if you don’t speak, emergency services will trace the call and respond), then follow up with text messages to communicate with 911. Combining a silent call and texts saved the life of a woman in Indiana, one of the first states to adopt Text to 911.


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