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Help for the Deaf

I read your Aug. 25 article regarding the 911 emergency phone number and Jay Schufeldt (“A Deadly Silence”). I represent the San Diego deaf community and am chairman of the Lions Deaf Recreation Center.

On Aug. 23, we invited Lt. Curt Munro from the San Diego Police Department’s Communication Division to explain to the deaf community how the 911 system operates and why they have difficulties. Munro gave a presentation and explained the 911 system, which brought up more concerns and questions.

We feel the 911 system is not adequate for TDD (telecommunications device for the deaf) users. It must be improved for our emergencies--life-and-death situations like the Mary B. Schufeldt case.

We have experienced when we call the 911 system with our TDDs how often they hang up on us. My concern is how can they determine the statistics of 35 calls a month when they hang up and do not recognize the TDD calls.

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I am outraged about several comments Munro made, such as they neither promise nor assure that it will not happen again and will not change or improve any procedures at the 911 system.

The communications division only has one TDD and no TDD backups but there are 133,000 hearing-impaired and at least 16,000 deaf citizens in San Diego. Future accidents will happen, and why are deaf citizens discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens? We pay taxes for this system, as well as other customers of the phone company. To my understanding, the deaf citizens pay the same as all people for the 911. Then why have one TDD? That is absurd. Also, if we deaf citizens have to wait for the transfer to a seven-digit-number line, why haven’t we been told? There are no directions in the city directory or Pacific Bell brochure.

My recommendations for improving the 911 system are as follows: add extra TDDs for backup purposes; increase staff awareness in the use and identity of TDD calls; quick response such as one minute, not three minutes as stated in the article; indicate on the computer screen that the person is deaf or hearing-impaired in case of failure to respond on TDD and leave phone off the hook for emergency responses; improve police awareness and attitude toward deaf citizens when in an emergency crisis.

ROBERT W. SCHAUFELE JR.

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Chula Vista


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