Call if you Can, Text if You Can’t: A Dismediation of U.S. Emergency Communication Infrastructure

Elizabeth Ellcessor


Text-to-911 services have been launching across the United States over the past five years. The educational materials that accompany these launches frame text-to-911 as a benefit for d/Deaf and disabled people; the same materials urge able-bodied people to make voice calls. This article uses dismediation and an infrastructural disposition to analyze text-to-911 materials as influential agents in the shaping of a technological infrastructure that, by its exceptional nature, may resist domestication. Ultimately, I perform an infrastructural inversion, arguing that these representations use deafness and disability as “assistive pretexts” that ideologically justify technological changes while simultaneously excusing infrastructural holdovers, limited functionalities, and institutional biases that perpetuate a historical marginalization of disabled people and constrain communicative possibilities for all users.


911, deaf, disability, domestication, emergency, infrastructure

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