Thu, 16 May 2013 - 21:00
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SMS Text Based 000 Emergency Service

Mr Fletcher asked the Minister representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, in writing, on 27 November 2012:

What action is the Government taking to facilitate the development of an SMS text based 000 emergency service for the benefit of the deaf, hearing and/or speech impaired community in Australia.

Mr Albanese: The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

I am aware that there have been calls from some in the Deaf community for access to emergency services to be available by Short Message Service (SMS). I understand that currently, people who are deaf, hearing and/or speech impaired who use text based communication can access emergency services via the National Relay Service (NRS) using a teletypewriter (TTY) to connect to 106, or using internet relay to connect to Triple Zero.

On 8 February 2013, I issued a media release announcing that the Government had delivered an improved NRS, including mobile text-based access to emergency services for people who are deaf, hearing-impaired and/or speech-impaired. New contracts have been signed with existing providers Australian Communication Exchange and WestWood Spice to deliver a new and improved NRS from 1 July 2013.

One of the new services to be implemented progressively in the second half of 2013 will be SMS Relay which will allow access to Triple Zero via text to the NRS for people who are deaf, or who are hearing-impaired and/or speech impaired. Some of the new services, including SMS Relay, require regulatory change and I have directed my department to immediately begin work on these changes and engage with the disability sector in their development.

The new contracts have achieved the Government's objective of ensuring that existing NRS services are maintained, and that new services are introduced that enhance the NRS for the deaf, hearing-impaired and/or speech-impaired communities.