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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 05:54 GMT 06:54 UK
Emergency text service for deaf
Mobile phone keypad
People will be able to text message the police using mobile phones
A new PSNI text messaging service will mean people with hearing or speech problems will be able to contact the emergency services using mobile phones.

The project was developed by the police in partnership with the Deaf Association of NI and British Telecom.

It was launched by Chief Constable Hugh Orde on Friday.

People who register with the service will be able to use their mobile phones to text the police, who in turn will contact the relevant emergency service.

The messages, which can be sent from any part of Northern Ireland, will go centrally to the police service's Belfast regional control centre.

Sign language

Staff at the centre will then direct the call to one, or all, of the required emergency services - police, ambulance and fire and rescue.

In addition to the scheme, the police are also training disability link officers in each of its 29 district command units.

The officers will be trained in both English and Irish sign language.

Hugh Orde said the new text service was another step towards making Northern Ireland a safer place for everyone.

"It also allows a group of people in the deaf and signing community who may in the past have found it difficult to communicate with the police and other emergency services and to deal with us in confidence," he said.

"Policing with the community is all about partnership."

Majella McAteer, of the Deaf Association of Northern Ireland said: "We are delighted with this recent development as it is vital that deaf sign language users have equal access to the emergency services of Northern Ireland.

"We hope that we can continue to break down barriers, raise awareness within the community and improve access to services for deaf sign language users."

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