Friday, June 19, 2009

Kansas deaf woman sues county that has no accessible 911

From The Wichita Eagle:

Imagine calling 911 and no one answers.

That's similar to a predicament a deaf woman in Lyons ran into when she tried to contact the police after business hours.

There was no computer system to help deaf people communicate with emergency services at night in Rice County, according to a lawsuit filed this week by Danette Dixon and the Kansas Disability Coalition.

The Wichita-based coalition and the Lyons woman are suing the city and Rice County for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit, filed June 16 in federal court in Wichita, asks for the city of Lyons and Rice County to comply with federal disability laws.

"There could be other small counties and small cities in the same situation," said Wichita lawyer David Calvert, who filed the suit.

Neither Rice County Dispatch or the Lyons police have an operating telephone communications device for the deaf, or TDD, the lawsuit says. Attorneys for Lyons and Rice County did not return phone calls Wednesday.

Authorities in the community about 3 ½ hours northwest of Wichita also don't have a working computer modem that provides access to instant messaging programs, the lawsuit said.

"They can hear her but she can't hear them and nothing they say or do can make her hear them," Calvert said.

Inside the Lyons city limits, residents wanting to contact police after hours must either call the county dispatch or go to the police department and use a red phone outside the office. All the police officers at night are on the streets, according to the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren and Magistrate Don Bostwick are set to hear the case.