Dear Companies, stop treating deaf people like crap

August 11, 2008

I am not deaf but I’m close to someone who is. The following things are true

1. TTYs suck.

2. Giving your personal info out to some random relay operator does not fill you with confidence.

3. TTYs and ‘press 9 now’ systems don’t  work, at all, the delay is FAR too great for most voice messaging systems to work.

4. Most people have never heard of TTY and relay services and respond as if you are a criminal or worse a telemarketer

When I call I verify who I am I give you a password or some person information that verifies that I AM that person, that I am acting on behalf of that person, or that I’ve taken that person hostage and am forcing them to give me this information. Why is it not good enough for me to give you that information if I honestly tell you I’m calling on behalf of that person but s/he cannot make the call herself? Why am I instantly less trustworthy? If I tell you that I AM the other person does that make me any more of a liar or your policy any less stupid? No one at your company can identify anyone’s voice, they MIGHT be able to tell if the voice belongs to a man or a woman, but they cannot tell, necessarily, if the name does.

The whole point of a password verification is that it AUTHENTICATES the caller. If I call and I have all the necessary passwords then for all intents for your company I AM THAT PERSON. Get this shoved through your processes and stop treating deaf people like crap. If you still cannot comprehend this then if there is ANY service that your company offers which cannot be COMPLETELY accessed via the website then you have FAILED to do your job.

10% of the population is deaf or hard of hearing. Figure it out.

If you’re having trouble putting this in context think of it like this:

You login to gmail, you are prompted to answer your secret question. You answer it. Then gmail says “nope, we still don’t believe you are who you claim to be, please call”. If you cannot trust the authenticators that the user provides correctly then you cannot trust the phone, either.

4 Responses to “Dear Companies, stop treating deaf people like crap”

  1. Eunice Says:

    oh and let me add that accessing these companies online and having a username/password AND then sending a message through their system is incredibly inefficient. especially when you want to report a lost credit card and time is of essence and the expected response will be 4 hours.

  2. Ricky Zhou Says:

    I’ve had this kind of experience before:
    What’s your name?
    Ricky
    Sorry, only the owner of the account can make this change.
    Oh, she’s right next to me. Can I just give her the phone?
    No, she’ll have to call [and wait] again.
    *grrrr*

    Stupid policy doesn’t provide any benefit to customers. They would have had no way of knowing if I had lied about my name.


  3. Security for people-to-people phone conversations is pretty much a joke. I believe I have successfully asked to have my power disconnected in the past by only giving my phone number. The problem that an SSN is not a password is probably beyond fixing.


  4. This is just one of the many issues in regards to deaf people. I live in NYC and you’d think a slight attempt would be made at accommodating deaf people or people who can’t hear all too well. One time subway service was completely suspended and there was this deaf guy who simply could not hear the announcement. There were no automated signs to read or anything like that so he was just standing there. How something like this is possible in the year 2008 is amazing to me.


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