202-PL-00057 MAY 17 1993 Ms.

Nancy Husted-Jensen Chairperson & State ADA Coordinator Governor's Commission on the Handicapped Building 51,3rd Floor 555 Valley Street Providence, Rhode Island 02908-5686 Dear Ms. Husted-Jensen: This letter responds to your inquiry regarding the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) . Specifically, you asked for guidance regarding the State of Rhode Island's proposed system for providing emergency and non-emergency telephone services. We regret the delay in responding. The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities having rights or obligations under the Act. This letter provides informal guidance to assist you in understanding the ADA's requirements. However, it does not constitute a legal interpretation and it is not binding on the Department. In your letter, you asked several questions on behalf of the Governor's Commission on the Handicapped about the State of Rhode Island's duty to provide accessible emergency and non-emergency telephone services to persons with hearing and speech impairments. The responses below are based on information provided in your letters of March 4 and July 30, 1992, and on discussions with Mr. Bob Cooper, Executive Secretary of the Rhode Island Governor's Commission on the Handicapped. Emergency Telephone Services: Question 1 "Is it permissible under 28 C.F.R. 35.162 to have all TDD emergency calls be directed through the E 911 [Enhanced 911] system?" cc: Records, Chrono, Wodatch, Magagna, Foran, FOIA Udd:Foran:RI.911

-2Short Answer The short answer is generally yes -- under the following conditions. - The E 911 system must receive and process nonvoice calls as promptly and effectively as voice calls. - Nonvoice callers whose calls are directed through E 911 must receive emergency attention as quickly as voice callers who dial local seven-digit numbers for emergency assistance instead of E 911. - Any emergency services provided by the State or local government entity not connected to the E 911 system must provide direct access to nonvoice callers (i.e., have their own TDD's and be compatible with computer modems). Discussion The applicable regulation states: Telephone emergency services, including 911 services, shall provide direct access to individuals who use TDD's and computer modems. 28 C.F.R. 35.162. "Direct access" means that emergency telephone services can directly receive calls from TDD and computer modem users without relying on outside relay services or third party services. Where 911 service is available, direct access must be provided to individuals who use TDD's and computer modems. The requirement for direct access disallows the use of a separate seven-digit number for persons with hearing impairments where 911 service is available. See preamble to title II regulation at 35713. According to your letter, 911 service is available in the State of Rhode Island, and -- consistent with the above-discussed requirement -- the State proposes using an Enhanced 911 (E 911) system that provides direct access to nonvoice callers. As we understand the facts, Rhode Island proposes to direct all

nonvoice callers through this E 911 service. In contrast, voice callers in Rhode Island have the option of dialing 911 or a variety of other seven-digit numbers to reach emergency services. Your question is whether channeling all nonvoice emergency calls through this E 911 system -- and not providing nonvoice callers with the additional option of dialing a local seven-digit emergency number -- is consistent with the ADA. -----------------------------------------------------------3As noted above, this arrangement is permitted under the ADA, but only under certain conditions. First, any emergency service provided by the State or local government entity which is not tied into the E 911 system would have to provide direct access to nonvoice callers. If, for example, the State of Rhode Island offered emergency poison control information which could not be accessed through E 911, that telephone emergency service would have to be equipped with a TDD to provide direct access to nonvoice callers. The State could provide two separate lines to reach this service -- one for voice calls, and another for nonvoice calls -- but it would have to ensure that the service for nonvoice calls was as effective as that offered for voice calls in terms of response time and availability in hours. Also, the nonvoice number would have to be publicized as effectively as the voice number, and displayed as prominently as the voice number wherever such emergency numbers are listed. See Title II Technical Assistance Manual at pages 38 and 39. Second, Rhode Island's proposed system would have to operate fairly. The system would be acceptable only if the State's emergency telephone services received and processed nonvoice calls promptly and effectively. The State would also have to ensure that nonvoice callers whose calls were directed through E 911 received emergency attention as quickly as voice callers who could dial local emergency seven-digit numbers for assistance. If the voice caller who dials a local seven-digit number for an emergency service receives more immediate attention than a person who is deaf or has a speech or hearing impairment dialing E 911, the system would be operating in violation of the ADA. See preamble to title II regulation at 35713. Rhode Island also proposes to use the Rhode Island State Police as the backup system for emergency TDD calls if the E 911 system is ever disrupted. Although it is not clear how often or in what circumstances such a disruption would occur, we assume

that you have proposed this backup system for nonvoice callers because voice callers would have the option of dialing a sevendigit local emergency number should the E 911 system fail. The same principles discussed above are applicable here: The State would have to ensure that nonvoice callers whose calls were directed through the State Police as the backup to E 911 received emergency attention as quickly as voice callers who could dial local emergency seven-digit numbers for assistance if E 911 service was disrupted. Your letter indicates that part of the impetus for centralizing nonvoice emergency calls stems from practical difficulties in retaining trained, experienced personnel to handle TDD calls. Public entities are required to take steps that are necessary to promptly receive and respond to a call from users of TDD's and computer modems. No matter which system Rhode Island ultimately implements, and despite any difficulties the -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------4State may encounter with high staff turnover, it is the State's responsibility to ensure that emergency desk or dispatch personnel are trained to receive and respond to TDD calls effectively. Non-Emergency Telephone Services: Questions 2 and 3 "If it is permissible to centralize emergency calls, then for non-emergency calls would it be permissible under 28 CFR 35.162: 2. for several public safety agencies of the same municipality to 'share' a TDD even if they do not have a central dispatch? 3 . for small volunteer fire companies to 'share' a TDD even if they do not have a central dispatch?" Short Answer The answer is yes, so long as the "messenger-type" system proposed works at least as effectively for persons using the TDDsystem as for those using seven-digit non-emergency calls.

Discussion Where a public entity communicates with applicants and beneficiaries by telephone in non-emergency situations, the public entity does not have to provide "direct access." Instead, public entities have the option of using TDD's or "equally effective telecommunication systems" to communicate with individuals with impaired speech or hearing. See 28 C.F.R. 35.161. Under the regulation, relay services such as those required by title IV (involving a relay operator who uses both a standard telephone and a TDD to type the voice messages to the TDD user and read the TDD messages to the standard telephone user) constitute equally effective telecommunication systems.

Title IV of the ADA requires all common carriers (i.e., the telephone companies) to provide telephone relay services by July 26, 1993. Thus, after that date, most State and local government entities in Rhode Island could choose to rely on relay services provided by the phone companies for non-emergency communications with individuals with impaired speech or hearing. Even after that date, however, the entities which have extensive telephone contact with the public such as city halls, public libraries and public aid offices, are strongly encouraged to have TDD's to ensure more immediate access. See preamble to title II ---------------------------------------------------------------------5regulation at 35712 ("The Department encourages those entities that have extensive telephone contact with the public. . . to have TDD's to insure more immediate access. Where the provision of telephone service is a major function of the entity, TDD's should be available.") As we understand it, your question is whether in the interim period before the relay system is operational (July 26, 1993), public service agencies providing non-emergency services in a given locality can meet their obligation under the ADA to provide equally effective telecommunication service by "sharing" a TDD. The system works as follows: the TDD operator transcribes a TDD

user's request, contacts the relevant agency, and upon receiving an answer, returns the person's TDD call. Or, the individual agency official would go to where the TDD is housed and answer the deaf person's inquiry directly. Rhode Island's interim system for most non-emergency communications provided by public entities would be satisfactory only if it provides "equally effective telecommunication service." TDD operators must be properly trained, and public employees must be instructed to accept and handle relayed calls in the normal course of business. See Title II Technical Assistance Manual at 38. Of course, once the relay system is operational in Rhode Island, you should use it instead of the shared TDD system described in your letter. Also, as stated above, we still strongly encourage those entities that have extensive telephone contact with the public to have their own TDD's to insure more immediate access. Finally, you asked for information regarding computer modem/ E 911 compatibility. Under the title II regulation, at present, telephone emergency services must only be compatible with the Baudot format. Until it can be technically proven that communications in another format can operate in a reliable and compatible manner in a given telephone emergency environment, a public entity would not be required to provide direct access to computer modems using formats other than Baudot. See Title II Technical Assistance Manual at 38. We do not have further information available regarding computer modem/ E 911 compatibility. However, your E 911 system should, at a minimum, be compatible with computer modems that use the Baudot format to be in compliance with the Department's title II regulation. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------6I hope that this information has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, please contact Sheila M. Foran at (202) 616-2314. Sincerely, John L. Wodatch Chief Public Access Section Enclosures (2)

Title II regulation Title II Technical Assistance Manual

STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS Executive Department GOVERNOR'S COMMISSION ON THE HANDICAPPED Building 51, 3rd fl, 555 Valley Street Providence, R. I. 02908 - 5686 (401) 277-3731 (v/tdd) (RI only) 1-800-752-8088 ext. 3731 March 4, 1992 John Wodatch, Director Office of Americans With Disabilities Act Civil Rights Division US Department of Justice Washington, DC 20530 Dear Mr. Wodatch: I am seeking an opinion on behalf of the State of Rhode Island with regards to 28 CFR 35.162 Telephone emergency service provision of the ADA's Government Service Regulation. Rhode Island has a state wide Enhanced 911 system that all public safety, agencies (police, fire, and rescue) are tied into. The system is equipped with telecommunication devices for the deaf. E 911 operators undergo training on the use of TDDs annually. The local police, fire, and rescue units have their own phone lines in addition to the E 911 system, for non-emergency communications and as a backup in case the E 911 system should ever be disrupted. At present the larger cities have their own TDDs, often shared by all municipal public safety agencies. Many of the smaller fire districts are relying on E 911 for emergency communications, including TDD calls. 1. Is it permissible under 28 CFR 35.162 to have all TDD emergency calls be directed through the E 911 system ?

If it is permissible to centralize emergency calls, then for nonemergency calls would it be permissible under 28 CFR 35.162: 2. for several public safety agencies of the same municipality to "share" a TDD even if they do not have a central dispatch ? 3. for small volunteer fire companies to "share" a TDD with a local municipal government, even if the TDD is not "housed" in the same building as the fire company, if the fire company has access to the TDD and the local government will act as a "relay service" ? If it is not permissible to centralize emergency calls , then would it be permissible under 28 CFR 35.162: 4. for several public safety agencies of the same municipality to "share" a TDD even if they do not have a central dispatch ? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Page 2 March 4, 1992 John Wodatch, Director 5. for several public safety agencies in the same geographic area to "share" a TDD even if they do not have a central dispatch ? I raise these points for a couple of reasons. During the last several years a number of local and state public safety agencies have gained experience with TDDs. Their experiences have shown that the frequency of TDD calls to a rural or suburban fire or police department is very low, averaging less than 1 call per year. Personnel in agencies with very few TDD calls, do not recognize TDD calls when they are finally made. Unlike the E 911 system, local calls are not being automatically traced so even when no communication takes place, a police officer can not be dispatched directly to the source of the phone call. The turnover in desk/dispatch personnel at the smaller public safety agencies makes it very difficult to ensure that the operators are experienced in "deaf language syntax and culture", an essential in any high stress situation. From a public safety standpoint the individual with a communication impairment has a much better chance of connecting with a highly trained "TDD friendly" operator at the statewide E 911 facility than they would have even at the larger urban public safety agencies.

As State ADA Coordinator I would like to propose that: 1. Rhode Island utilize its E 911 system as the Telephone Emergency Service for all TDD calls and the State Police be the backup system for emergency TDD calls if the E 911 system is ever disrupted (the state police have over 20 years experience with (TDDs,TTYs); 2. Urban & suburban public safety agencies establish a centralized TDD for non-emergency communications in each municipality; and 3. Rural public safety agencies establish a "shared" TDD system for non-emergency communications in each town. I would appreciate your opinion on the legality of this proposed system so I can ensure that Rhode Island has an accessible telephone emergency system in place as soon as possible. At present our E 911 system is compatible with TDDs but not with computer modems, we would be interested in any information your office has on computer modem/E 911 compatibility, so we can adjust our system to meet the new requirements. Sincerely, Nancy Husted-Jensen Chairperson & State ADA Coordinator