FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 1995

CR (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888

FORT LAUDERDALE REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO ENSURE 9-1-1 SERVICES FOR PERSONS WHO ARE DEAF WASHINGTON, D.C. -- People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have speech impairments will be able to communicate effectively with 9-1-1 emergency operators in Fort Lauderdale, under a settlement reached today between the city and the Department of Justice. The settlement agreement resolves a complaint filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) alleging that a woman who is deaf tried to summon police twice using a telecommunications device for the deaf, or TDD. She failed to receive a response from the police either time due in part to a lack of TDDs at the calltakers' positions. People who use TDDs type their conversations on their end and their words are read by the receiving party who also must have a TDD to read the conversation and respond. "This settlement will ensure that calls to 9-1-1 by people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have speech impairments will no longer go unanswered in Fort Lauderdale," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "A 9-1-1 call may mean the difference between life and death. Access to 9-1-1 services has been a serious problem for millions of Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have speech impairments." The ADA prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. Title II of the ADA requires counties and cities to ensure that their telephone emergency services, including 9-1-1 services, provide direct access to individuals who use TDDs. Under the settlement, the city has agreed to modify its current practices to ensure that the services provided to individuals who use TDDs are as effective as those provided to others. The city has also agreed to install a minimum of one TDD at each of two consoles, for a total of at least four TDDs. The city has also agreed to implement a public education program to promote the use of 9-1-1 by individuals who use TDDs. take several actions to ensure effective handling of TDD calls in their separate county 9-1-1 system. On February 21, 1995, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the County stating that the complaint against the County had been resolved because of the actions that had been or would soon be taken, including improvements to their new 9-1-1 system. "Fort Lauderdale and Broward County have taken positive steps toward eliminating discrimination against individuals with disabilities," noted Patrick. "Individuals with disabilities have been paying for access to these services for many years, and it is time that this access is provided." The Justice Department can seek relief in federal court if the city fails to comply with the terms of the agreement. # # # 95-110

In a related matter, Broward County has recently agreed to