Deaf couple's struggle with 911 system brings changes
CTV Southwestern Ontario
Published Friday, April 8, 2011 6:12PM EDT
Police in Brantford have introduced a new system to ensure people who need help, but cannot communicate, will get the assistance they need.
The new system allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to register their phone numbers by simply filling out a form. The police will then respond to calls from those numbers as a top priority.
The changes come about six months after a 911 call from James and Nancy Henderson, who are both deaf, went unanswered for nearly an hour.
Nancy says "I feel safer, I feel happier that this is going to happen, and they've meeting and this is now being implemented."
Last August, James tried to call 911 after Nancy began choking on a pill she was trying to take and couldn't breathe. He thought he was making noise, but wasn't, and police believed the silence was a prank call.
In desperation, James decided to drive Nancy to the hospital himself, and fortunately the pill dislodged on the way.
It wasn't until after they returned home and made a cup of tea, over 40 minutes later, that police arrived.
The couple went public with their experience and met with The Canadian Hearing Society, sparking the changes in Brantford's system.
James says "Hopefully this will be a good model so that other regions will start to do the same…If we're someone who's deaf and making a call to 911 and not using our voice, I think it's important that they know who it is calling, and they can come and I think the priority here is safety."
The response to silent calls varies with different municipalities, and The Canadian Hearing Society is working to come up with similar solutions in other jurisdictions.