Vodacom has launched South Africa’s first SMS Emergency Service for deaf, hearing and speech impaired customers.
The Vodacom 082 112 SMS Emergency Service is free and provided for Vodacom Prepaid, Contract and Top Up customers who are Deaf, hearing and speech impaired.
The service addresses a serious need that currently exists in the market. Previously deaf and hearing impaired persons were unable to contact an emergency service centre, as it could only be accessed via voice calls.
The new Vodacom 082 112 SMS Emergency Service now provides these customers with the option to request emergency services such as police, fire and ambulance services by sending an SMS to 082 112. In order to use this new service, customers need only register their details by sending an SMS to 082 112.
Karen Smit, Vodacom Principal Specialist for Specific Needs, says that this is a first for South Africa and the continent and continues on Vodacom’s promise to provide peace of mind for deaf and hearing impaired persons.
“We are confident that this initiative will assist in promoting the ability to communicate for deaf and hearing impaired customers through digital inclusion as they can now request help should they experience an emergency situation. Vodacom is committed to adding value and we are excited to be able to offer this service to some of our more vulnerable customers.”
Vodacom has been providing accessible products and services to customers with disabilities since 2004. The Specific Needs division has received a number of accolades including the Change Agents and Disability Champion amongst South Africans Award at the Human Rights Summit from the Disability Alliance (SADA). This award recognises Vodacom for being fully engaged and innovative in the process of accessible and affordable ICT in South Africa.
As part of the group’s CARE initiative and inclusion strategy, Vodacom has over the years developed a number of products and revamped its service models to cater for the disability and elderly segment of the market. Some of the targeted products and specialists services offered on the network include; a device repair priority process, easy to use devices with a big keypad and inclusive design smartphones. The device repair priority process enables disabled customers to have their devices repaired in a shorter period of time. The phones with a big keypad cater for the elderly and allows them to easily see the keypad and words when typing. A large range of inclusive design electronic devices have built-in text-to-speech software that makes them accessible to visually impaired persons.
Another innovation is the HearZA app which was developed in partnership with the University of Pretoria. HearZA is a smartphone-based national hearing test app. The app helps with early detection of hearing problems which is essential in mitigating possible hearing losses. Vodacom further meets the needs of deaf and hearing impaired customers by providing them with special contract phone deals that consist of data and SMS, without minutes.