How Relay Services Interact with 112

In an emergency, every second counts. For Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing individuals, accessing emergency services can be difficult, if at all even possible. To bridge this gap, international regulations such as the EU’s mandatory directives (Eurpean Electronic Communiations Code 2018/1972 and European Accessibility Act 2019/882) are put in place, and also national regulatory bodies in various countries mandate relay service providers to prioritise and efficiently manage emergency calls. But how exactly do these services work, and what are the potential threats to accessibility for Emergency Services?

To get a deeper understanding to Relay Services interaction with Emergency Services, we need to look at the process of how these calls are handled.

The Flow of an Emergency Call via Relay Services

Imagine this scenario: a Deaf individual immediate assistance. They initiate a call using Real-Time Text (RTT) or video communication using Total Conversation (video, RTT, voice). Some callers might be using devices without audio capabilities, adding another layer of complexity since the call taker can not hear what is going on in the background of the caller.

The first point of contact is the Relay Service, when an interpreter receives the call. Here, the conversation can involve a mix of video with sign language, voice, and text. The relay agent then makes a voice call to the Emergency Service 112. The interpreter will relay the call to the emergency service.  

Time Delay: A Critical Concern

On significant issue is the time delay that comes with connecting calls through a third party. Emergency Services typically comply to strict Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with response times raging from 4 to 8 seconds. In contrast, Relay Services often have less strict SLAs, with response times extending up to a minute or several minutes. This difference can lead to critical delays, especially during off-peak hours when call volumes are low and the Relay Service requires less agents available.

Moreover, few Relay Services operate 24/7, adding another layer of unpredictability. Users can’t always rely on Relay Services to be available at all times, potentially preventing them from making emergency calls. 

Location Information and Response Time

In emergencies, the ability to quickly identify and validate a caller’s location is crucial. For Deaf individuals using the Relay Services, this process can take longer, further delaying the emergency response. The transmission and verification of location information are not always instantaneous, adding precious seconds or even minutes to the response time.

Call Recording

Since the call between the interpreter at the relay service and the call taker in the PSAP is a voice call, this means that the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) will only record the voice conversation between the relay agent and the emergency call taker. The original conversation, which might have included text or video, is not captures, except in rare causes such as the United Kingdom.


For the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing communities, accessing Emergency Services via Relay Services is critical lifeline but come with challenges. The time delays and limitations in communication modes highlight the need for ongoing improvements in these services. As regulatory bodies continue to refine policies and enhance the infrastructure, the goal remains clear: to ensure that everyone, regardless of their communication abilities, can access timely and effective emergency assistance.

In our rapidly evolving technological landscape, it is imperative that Relay Services and emergency response systems keep pace to provide proper support for all individuals, especially in moments of urgent need.

By understanding and addressing these challenges, we can work towards a more inclusive and responsive Emergency Service framework for everyone. For more insights and updates on accessibility and technology, stay tunes to our blog.