CommunicationFIRST Petitions FCC to Add Text and Video Options for Suicide Lifeline

Left hand holding iPhone with 988 typed into the text message address and right index finger positioned over the phone as if ready to typeOn October 16, 2020, CommunicationFIRST joined the National Association of the Deaf and other communication rights organizations in petitioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow people to call the National Suicide Lifeline by text and direct video calling, rather than just by voice. By July 2022, the Suicide Lifeline will be reachable with a new, easy-to-remember, three-digit number (988), but the FCC limited access to that three-digit number to only people who can use voice calls.

(Until 2022, the National Suicide Lifeline can be reached by calling 800-273-8255 (TALK).)

Our petition calls on the FCC to reconsider its recent decision to exclude text and direct video calling (DVC) options for the 988 Lifeline for millions of deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech-disabled people in the United States who cannot communicate effectively using voice-only calls, especially during a mental health crisis.

Many people who rely on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to be understood will face significant barriers to accessing the Suicide Lifeline unless 988 can be accessed using text or video. People who use speech-generating devices to communicate report that they are regularly hung up on when attempting to use their device on a phone call. The petition encourages the FCC to ensure DVC providers are trained in the basics of communicating with AAC users.

The FCC has previously recognized the critical need for emergency texting options by requiring Text-to-911.

Read the petition for reconsideration here