Nfld. & Labrador

No landline, no text 911 service left deaf man without help for 24 hours, says sister

A woman says her brother, who is deaf, was stranded in his home after he slipped and fell, and was unable to contact 911 because he didn't have a landline phone.

'There's an app to get ducks out of the drainage system,' but not for hearing-impaired people

Susan Khaladkar says there should be an emergency texting service for people not able to communicate by voice. (Geoff Bartlett/CBC)

A Sunnyside woman says her brother, who is deaf, was stranded in his basement apartment in St. John's after he slipped and fell, and was unable to call 911 because he didn't have a landline phone.

Susan Khaladkar's brother Bob, who is 75, has been deaf since he was three. In December, he got rid of his landline in favour of a cellphone.

It just seems to me that it's got to be behind the times.- Susan Khaladkar

But Khaladkar said because Newfoundland and Labrador still does not have a text 911 service for cellphone users, her brother couldn't call for help after he slipped on ice and hit his head.

"He went into his apartment and lay down and tried to text me, which is what he usually [does] — we keep in touch every day — but as luck would have it I wasn't online." she said.

Khaladkar said she didn't get the message the following day either because her internet was down in a storm, so her brother spent more than 24 hours alone without medical attention.

"When we found out what had happened we called 911 and they sent an ambulance and took him to St. Clare's [hospital]. Turned out he'd had a stroke."

Not an app for everything, apparently

Her brother was dizzy, nauseous, and could walk only by holding onto a wall. While she doesn't know why he didn't try messaging someone else for help, she feels there should be better emergency services available.

Text with 9-1-1 has been rolling across parts of Canada in recent years, but some areas are still not covered. (textwith911.ca)

"I think it's ridiculous that we do not have an ability to text into emergency services," Khaladkar told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"There's an app to get ducks out of the drainage system if the ducks need to be rescued, and if you can do that surely to heaven we as a society would be able to solve a problem of having an emergency service for people who cannot communicate by voice."

The Deaf Wireless Canada Committee formed in June to advocate for the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing, have been pushing for the CRTC to ensure all Canadians have access to Text with 9-1-1.

That service would allow users to text message in an emergency, instead of making a traditional audio call.

While a relay call service, TTY, is available to people with a landline, Khaladkar said people who need the service shouldn't be forced to pay for a landline they would never otherwise use.

Susan Khaladkar says her brother was unable to get help because he didn't have a landline, and Newfoundland and Labrador does not have a texting service for emergencies. (Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C.)

"I just don't understand it … texting as a back up plan shouldn't be so difficult as it seems to be," she said.

"It just seems to me that it's got to be behind the times."

'Not high on the radar'

While her brother is now in the Miller Centre, she said he still is unable to swallow after the stroke, so has been on a feeding tube since December.

Khaladkar said she doesn't want a similar thing to happen to other people.

"I think really that deafness is not high on the radar screen for people," she said.

"I see it as almost like you wouldn't deny people wheelchairs, that's considered a really important thing when it comes to accessibility. But we don't seem to have the same attitude when it comes to things like communication devices."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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