Australian bushfire warning alerts fail to reach disabled

Australian bushfire warning alerts fail to reach disabled

17 December 2009

published by

Australia —

The Australian Federation of Disability Organizations revealed on Thursday the new bushfire warning alerts fail to reach millions of people with disabilities.

The national emergency alert system, currently under trial, sends text messages to mobile phones registered to addresses near threatening fires.

Developed in response to the deadly Black Saturday fires, the 15 million Australian dollar (13.4 million U.S. dollar) taxpayer-funded system also makes calls to landlines in areas at risk.

“As it stands the system has put people with disabilities lives at risk,” the lobby group’s spokesman Dean Barton-Smith told Australian Associated Press.

“People with disabilities who rely on text telephone services (TTY) or other forms of communication and aids, will simply miss out.”

A spokeswoman for the office of the emergency services commissioner said it wasn’t feasible to include the TTY in the initial system, but is a service that could be included at a later stage.

The peak body representing the deaf, Deafness Forum Australia, is furious the measures weren’t incorporated in time for the bushfire season.

More than 3.5 million Australians have some sort of hearing loss, and many are elderly who are not text savy, spokeswoman Nicole Lauder said.

“Every Australian has the right to be warned of these types of emergencies, it should be a warning system for everyone who’s at risk,” she said.

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