Whether it’s via sms, or the new and improved app, ER24’s 112 emergency number is accessible to all, including people who have speech and hearing impairments.

The 112 Emergency Service started in 2017 through a partnership between ER24 and Vodacom. Initially, this was a voice-call service providing direct and easy access to emergency medical services for Vodacom customers. However, the two stakeholders noticed a barrier that hampered people who are deaf, hearing impaired and/or have speech difficulties.

Experience in accessibility

Vodacom has been providing accessible products and services for the hearing impaired since 2004. ER24 uses a best-in-class computer dispatch system, and Contact Centre staff are trained to take calls, dispatch services, and assist over the phone. ER24 and Vodacom worked together, with valuable input from the deaf community, to develop a solution that ensures services are accessible for people who are deaf or have hearing impairments.

Text-based to smartphone tech

Until  recently  you  could  only contact emergency services by making a voice call. This limitation has now been resolved, so people have additional ways to request emergency medical help. By doing this, we ensure that our service is more inclusive, allowing people who might have speech challenges to also get the assistance they need.

In 2018, ER24 and Vodacom launched a free-to-use 112 SMS service, and an app soon followed (downloadable from the Apple and Google Play Store). Everything is text- and touch-based – and easier to use than the SMS version.

The app and the SMS service operate in similar ways. Users can specify which service they need, what type of emergency it is, and where the emergency is happening. App users can also identify their disability, and any other conditions or allergies. This gives ER24 Contact Centre staff and medical teams easier access to vital information about patients.

User-friendly service

The user-friendly interface is key to this success, as it empowers those who are deaf or hearing impaired to request emergency services themselves, says Rajes Govender, Commercial Contact Centre Manager for ER24. “The app is efficient and easy to use. Its interactive interface is designed to maximise customers’ experiences and minimise hassle.”

How it works

Once you report an emergency, an ER24 Emergency Resource Officer will dispatch the necessary service to the scene, says Govender. “The 112 Emergency Service app has its own team of dedicated agents handling requests. They’re trained to keep the caller calm and will check in constantly until help arrives. Our Contact Centre has highly skilled Emergency Resource Officers who aid in stabilising the patient until paramedics arrive.”

Hearing disability is no barrier to a fulfilling career in EMS

Despite being a person with a hearing disability, ER24 Advanced Life Support Paramedic Duncan Swart is dedicated to helping people in their greatest time of need.

“I was born with my hearing disability, and it’s had a big impact on me as I’ve had to adapt to the world to have a ‘normal’ life. But it hasn’t prevented me from carving out a career in emergency medicine. My Bloemfontein ER24 colleagues have always been supportive and inclusive. For me, to help those in need is like walking on sunshine. Every patient is different, has a different emergency and requires different care. To walk the extra mile with them makes me smile.”

Transformation ensures we optimise our internal resources.

- Rajes Govender


- Extract from the Transformation Publication 2023