Texas cancels contract with emergency alert system for visually and hearing impaired

POSTED: Thursday, February 3, 2011 - 5:44pm
UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 9:54am

WACO -- When it comes to emergency alerts for weather, information on blackouts or even where to seek shelter to get warm if your power is out, how do people who are deaf get this information?

Texans who are deaf or blind used to get emergency alerts through Deaf Link Inc.

They would text or put up alerts with sign language on the computer. But since Texas didn't renew their contract in Jan., part of our community is left out in the cold, literally.

"They still think they're going to be getting alerts. They've not been informed it's been canceled. Then the situation that's happened with the weather, you know, this is a dangerous situation. A lot of people will die from this freeze. It will happen. Someone will die," said CEO of Deaf Link Inc., Kay Chiodo.

Video chat is one way the hearing impaired can communicate. They use computers to sign back and forth, and Deaf Link received hundreds of calls this week with people worried they are being left out.

Of course, people who are deaf can see alerts on the TV, but a lot of times they only know sign language, not English.

As for the blind, they can hear emergency alerts on the TV, but they can't read the information scrolling across the bottom of the screen.

Five years ago, Texas paid just over $800,000 a year for Deaf Link's alert system. That's about $3,000 per city, but not anymore.

Scott Bailey is deaf, and he says it's frightening that the state is ignoring his well-being.

"Just like anyone else, I would love to have the ability to receive information instantaneously. For most people, it's through sound, radio, TV. That's just something I cannot assess. No matter how hard I want to or want to try I cannot be made to hear again," said Bailey.

Now, Deaf Link says it's up to the government to figure out a way to get information to the hearing and visually impaired.

Bailey says he hopes local governments can figure out something soon in these freezing, life or death conditions.

To see the current weather alert for the hearing impaired, click here.

For more information on alerts for the hearing or visually impaired, click here.

To see other information, click here.

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