A new service has launched which will allow deaf people to make 999 calls for the first time.
The service, which is called 999 BSL, will allow deaf people to make emergency calls using British Sign Language (BSL) via an app or website.
Callers who make a 999 call using the new platform will be connected with a BSL interpreter. The interpreter will then pass on information from the conservation to a 999 operator.
Like the current number people can dial to contact emergency services – including the police, ambulance and fire brigade – 999 BSL is free to use and can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A text service for 999 already exists, but users have to sign up before they can use this.
The new sign language-based service doesn’t require registration, meaning callers can use it as long as the app or webpage is open.
To make a call with 999 BSL, users need to press a red button found either in the app or on the webpage that will connect them to an interpreter.
Ofcom, which oversees a number of communication services in the UK including TV and radio, announced telephone and broadband companies must carry the service last June, saying it would save lives.
A number of charities and organisations who campaigned for the service have welcomed the news.
“This is a breakthrough for deaf people that will save lives and means one more step forward towards equality,” said Abigail Gorman who is the public affairs and policy manager at the deaf health charity SignHealth.
“We won’t be satisfied until deaf people have full and equal access, particularly to life saving health services.”
James Watson-O’Neill who is the chief executive of SignHealth said the service was important for everyone and not just the deaf community.