Thursday, March 1, 2007

Are you safe at home alone?

For those people who are deaf or with spasmodic dysphonia, have you wondered how you will manage to call for assistance in a time of crisis? What do we normally do when we find it difficult to speak on a telephone? How can we be sure we are able to act appropriately in a household emergency? Worrying thoughts now may be our ‘inner voice’ alerting us to the need for a protective behaviors personal safety plan in our home.

Teletypewriters or textphones commonly known as TTY telephones, or a computer with modem, are alternative communication systems. These systems allow people who are deaf or, who have a speech or hearing impairment, to have immediate access from their home telephone to police, fire or ambulance emergency services.

Speaking on a conventional home telephone is not possible if a person is either unable to hear or unable to speak. Spasmodic dysphonia occurs when vocal cords spasm during attempted speech. The spasms do not allow vocal cords to open and close in a normal pattern thus forming speech. Whilst deafness does not specifically prevent the flow of speech, it does affect speech and does not allow the person to hear normally. Either of these variables put a person in that situation at great risk of being unable to summon appropriate help when urgently required. Although people with severe speech and hearing impairment may have a range of behavioral strategies for communicating on the telephone, we basically rely on others in close vicinity to act on our behalf when unable to manage a telephone call ourselves.

Safety is compromised when a person finds themselves at home in a life threatening emergency or where time is crucial and they are unable to use a standard telephone. Dialing ‘000’ is of no advantage when the person needing emergency services is unable to communicate their need or receive instructions in response to their call.

Be an ‘actor’ not a ‘reactor’ when it comes to providing yourself with a protective behaviors personal safety plan for emergency situations requiring police, fire or ambulance assistance in your home. Act now in anticipation of providing access to safety by installing a TTY phone. TTY phones connect to an emergency call centre. In Australia the TTY emergency number is 106.

The Australian Communication Exchange (ACE) Australian National Relay Service (NRS) provide a fact sheet clearly displaying how to make a ‘106’ TTY call for emergency assistance. The information includes tips for clearly communicating what your needs are. There is provision for text to voice type and read calls, hearing carry over type and listen calls and, voice carry over speak and read calls. If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment your action now will greatly reduce the risk of reacting inappropriately to a previously identified need for a suitable system of communication in your home during an emergency.

Sue Bayliss. Cairns, Australia.

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