Friday, September 14, 2007

A truly accessible emergency notification system

I have just learned about a useful free service for notifying people who are deaf of emergency situations in their local area or state.

Deaf Link is in the process of broadening the database for their
Accessible Hazard Alert System-Individual Notification
Or (AHAS-IN), which will notify deaf consumers of emergency notifications sent out by city, county, or state agencies. The notifications will be sent to user-supplied email addresses, text pagers, cell phones with text messaging, or PDAs with the ability to email.

The emergency notification can be received in American Sign Language (ASL), English text, voice and can also be received by Braille capable devices for blind or deaf and blind citizens.

Deaf Link is working to broaden its database and attempting to gather contact numbers and email addresses, as well as state and zip code information, for people who are deaf. At the web site linked above, the service providers are making the following plea for assistance:

““In order for this system to provide you and your family with this potentially life saving information, we need your help. We are expanding our database of email addresses, text pagers with ZIP codes of individuals who are Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing, Late Deafened, Deaf and Blind and Blind who live in the United States. This service will attempt to notify you if an emergency/hazard happens in your area through the email/pager/text phone/PDA address you provide.. This alert system is in addition to alerts on the television and any other hazard information you have access to. We are expanding this service across the United States. We can only alert you and your family members if you are in our AHAS-IN database.”
Users do not need to submit their name or address, only email address, text pager address and/or other assistive capable devices and the county, state and ZIP code where they live/work. This user information is good for one year.

I heartily encourage you to share this site with anybody who is deaf, perhaps even with those who are blind. It is an accessible means of communicating emergency information to them in a timely manner.

This service appears very encouraging as the providers seem to have taken the necessary steps to truly know their audience’s needs. Also, note that it is apparently not available in all areas yet, but they promise to contact users when it is working in their areas via the provided contact number or email address.

Note: I do have a personal gripe with the web site as it has audio which automatically loads with the page. This makes it difficult to browse the web site information with a screen reader using speech output.

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