Court: Text- to-911 Lawsuit can Proceed

 hands typing Help Me into a phone

Andy Jones
March 11, 2017

The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona has denied the state of Arizona’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit arguing that state and local governments are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide text-to-911 services.

“The court’s decision is an important step in providing persons with disabilities the direct and meaningful access to the emergency services that people without disabilities take for granted,” said Asim Deitrich, an attorney at the Arizona Center for Disability Law, in a news release from February 14.

The ADA requires state and local government entities to provide “meaningful access” to its services for people with disabilities. The lawsuit, filed February 11, 2016, asserts that state and multiple local governments in Arizona fall short of this mandate by only providing this option for people with text telephones (TTYs), which are virtually obsolete, or with access to high-speed internet access.

Attorneys from the ACDL and Stein & Vargas LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf and three individuals. At the time, it was believed to be the first-of-its type lawsuit. Disability Rights New York filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in January 2017.

“911 services are life-saving but only if accessible to the people who need them,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, NAD Chief Executive Officer, in a news release. “This court decision allows us to move forward with establishing that the law requires accessible 911 services such as text-to-911.”

All four major wireless carriers currently support text-to-911 service. A list of areas where such services are available is posted on the Federal Communicaton Agency website.

Disability Rights Washington and the Arizona Disability Law Center are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and Arizona, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.