The tyranny of telephony.

My deaf friends and I lose track of how often hearing people assume: “No one needs telephones these days, you can do everything by email or text messages.“.

Hospital appointments

I recently needed to arrange communication support for a hospital appointment. No email addresses published. I had to phone via TextRelay to ask for an email address. Then the email I sent was not answered. It is common to have hospital staff ask me for a phone number, when I say I don’t do phones, use email, they ask me for my partner or mum’s phone number instead. I don’t give them my mobile number for SMS because they can’t be trusted not to phone it. Hospitals are legally required by the Accessible Information Standards to offer alternatives to voice telephony, but are clearly not routinely doing so.

Arranging access at events

A friend emails a theatre’s accessibility email address to find out where the captions and interpreter will be displayed so they can buy seats in the right area. A reply comes back saying “Telephone us on…..”. If Friend had wanted to use the phone, they would have called in the first place. People can be amazingly stupid and keep telling deaf people to call, rather than just answering our often simple query by email in the first place.

Dealing with insurance companies or banks

A friend wanted to discuss car insurance, her provider did not have any contact method other than the phone, no webchat or email service. Another friend had to use relay to phone their bank as online banking and webchat could not help due to “security” – the bank then unlawfully refused to take a call via TextRelay wrongly citing data protection.

Applying for benefits and dealing with government agencies

If a deaf person wants to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to help cover extra costs associated with being deaf they have to phone just to get the forms answering several questions which in a standard call take up to 45 minutes to complete. TextRelay calls take 2-6 times longer, which means this call could take 1.5 to 4.5 hours for a deaf or deafblind person to complete. A third party can call on the deaf person’s behalf, but the DWP require the deaf person to use their voice to authorise this – which is dreadfully insecure and doesn’t work for deaf people without clear speech. People can request the forms by post,  but the DWP refuse to take responsibility for any delays caused by using it and timescales are already very tight.

There is actually an email address RFP1.PILOT@DWP.GSI.GOV.UK which the DWP refuse to publish for no apparent reason.

Services aimed at deaf people

I am complaining about a service provided for deaf people. I had to keep chasing for replies to my emails. A friend who is complaining to the same service provider has not chased, and gets no email replies at all.  Eventually I received an email from a senior manager who laid on the customer service charm, claimed to be interested in talking to me about service improvements before asking me for my telephone number so she could call me for a chat…

The above examples all happened in the last month. 

I would like to thank S for the title which inspired me to write this post.

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