Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 13:51 UK

Text service for the deaf grows

Texting on a mobile phone
The emergency text service was initially introduced in Hampshire

A service which has allowed deaf people in Hampshire to alert emergency services by text message is to be rolled out across more counties.

Deaf and speech impaired people across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have been able to text 80999 to alert the emergency services since 2004.

But from Monday, the facility will be used by forces in Dorset, Wilts, Avon and Somerset and Devon and Cornwall.

The move coincides with the British Deaf Association's Learn to Sign Week.

Deaf people need emergency access like this
Text service user Pam Cross

The annual event comprises a series of events which give schools the opportunity to get involved with anything from learning British Sign Language to helping raise money for the charity.

The emergency text service - introduced in Hampshire in December 2004 to improve access for the deaf and speech impaired people to the emergency services - also "compliments the work of Hampshire Constabulary's Police Link Officers for Deaf People (PLOD), established in 1999", said a police spokeswoman.

Pam Cross, whose is profoundly deaf and from Southampton, used the service to contact the ambulance service when she awoke one night with severe chest pain.

"I was taken ill and I thought I was having a heart attack," said the 62-year-old.

"It was very frightening. The police had told me about the text service and so I sent a message for help.

"The ambulance arrived very quickly. I'm so grateful.

"Deaf people need emergency access like this."

Misusing it

Liz Jones, chief executive officer for Hampshire Deaf Association, said: "The expansion of the 80999 emergency text number across the South West is an exciting development in providing equitable provision to emergency services for deaf and speech impaired people living in this area."

A leaflet which shows an example of the type of incident where the service could be used will be circulated by the various police forces.

The number is not designed for general use and police say anyone misusing it will have their mobiles disabled.

Figures show in March 2007, there were 54,000 people registered as deaf in England and 164,600 registered as hard of hearing.

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