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9-1-1, Tech Industry, and Accessibility Advocates Collaborate to Enable Better Access to 9-1-1

Wednesday, October 24, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Chris Nussman
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People with speech and hearing disabilities will gain better access to emergency services as the result of an Industry Collaboration Event hosted by NENA: The 9-1-1 Association. The event brought together twenty-two leading public safety and technology companies with deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech disability advocates to test products designed to improve access to 9-1-1 for those communities, as well as enhance the ability of 9-1-1 centers to receive and share data-rich communications with the public and emergency responders.

This 5th Industry Collaboration Event, or "ICE 5,” resulted in heightened awareness of the requirements necessary for access to 9-1-1 by all persons in the Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) environment. NG9-1-1, which will soon replace today’s voice-centric 9-1-1 system, is designed to support text messaging and multimedia communications; these widely-used communications methods are especially critical for improving interactions between those with hearing- and speech-related disabilities and 9-1-1 call takers.

ICE 5 participants determined that end-to-end testing of the "call chain” is essential to ensuring that new and emerging technologies can provide the necessary reliability, stability, compatibility, and call quality over all media types, leading to significantly improved access to emergency services for all people, including individuals with disabilities.

"The real promise of NG9-1-1 is the system’s capability to provide truly equal access to 9-1-1 for all people, irrespective of one’s primary means of communication,” said NENA President Barbara Jaeger, ENP. "It is therefore essential that all new technologies seamlessly and intuitively interface with each other, requiring a thorough and rigorous testing process. Through the ICE initiative, NENA is proud to provide a space for all relevant players to come together in an open, collaborative atmosphere to test the products and services that will ultimately enable Next Generation 9-1-1 and improve emergency responses for all citizens in need.”

Hosted by the Real-Time Communications Lab at the Illinois Institute of Technology School of Applied Technology from October 15-19, ICE 5 was the most complicated event in the series to-date, as it tested not only 9-1-1 system elements, but also the consumer-side technologies that will connect with future public safety systems. Test results provided valuable data that will lead to significant technological and standards development on:

  • Methods for receipt and display of text messages inside 9-1-1 centers;
  • Locating and routing text and multimedia 9-1-1 messages;
  • Multi-party conferencing to 9-1-1 utilizing video sign language interpreters and communication assistance services;
  • Video compression algorithms designed to ensure video clarity for callers using American Sign Language;
  • Text and voice transmission devices, including real-time text applications and teletypewriter (TTY) emulation;
  • Connections for legacy devices to NG9-1-1, including TTY and captioned telephone;
  • Network and system security; and
  • Recording and retrieval of voice and non-voice data.

Additional ICE 5 details are available at For information on past and future ICEs, visit