Text-to-911 Federal Lawsuit

February 15, 2017

In Phoenix, Arizona — a federal court ruled that the NAD (National Association of the Deaf) and three deaf people may proceed in their lawsuit that seeks to have the state of Arizona and various local governments in Arizona to provide text-to-911 capabilities. 


The lawsuit was filed last year — it alleged that it was discriminatory that Arizona and local governments failed to provide text-to-911 — saying that current 911 services are inaccessible because deaf people are required to use either TTY devices (which very few people use) or VRS services (which requires a high-speed internet connection — unavailable away form homes or high-speed internet zones). 


The state of Arizona/local governments wanted to dismiss the lawsuit, but Judge John Tuchi of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona rejected it and concluded that NAD and the three deaf plaintiffs have a valid claim under federal discrimination law — and allowed the lawsuit to proceed.


I asked Mary Vargas, a lawyer from Stein & Vargas, LLP on what this lawsuit meant. She said it means that people in the U.S. can sue state and local governments for failing to provide equal access to 911 services.


[Statement from Mary Vargas: 


The decision means you can sue state and local governments for failing to ensure equal access to 911. The Court held that the Plaintiffs stated a claim that the failure to provide text to 911 could violate the ADA and Section 504. The Defendants were ordered to Answer the lawsuit and a hearing is set for the end of March. This is the first lawsuit in the nation of its type and should serve as a reminder to jurisdictions throughout the United States that in providing 911 services, those services must be accessible to all.] 


Wow, great information from Mary, thank you for sharing. I’m grateful for NAD and the other law firms and the three deaf plaintiffs who is making a big difference for Deaf people. I hope to have more Text-to-911 services in the future. This is considered a landmark civil rights case. 




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