News12th November 2013

Implications for Deaf Customers with Introduction of Voice Recognition

Voice biometrics are about to be introduced but what will that mean for Deaf and Hard of Hearing customers

by Sarah Lawrence

Having been the victim of identity fraud and other on-line scams in recent years, I should be overjoyed by the news today that banks and other businesses are starting to introduce voice recognition systems.

Voice biometrics as they are called, involves the recording and analysis of a caller's voice to make sure that the person ringing, is the person they claim to be.

The extent of the problem is mind blowing, with the Financial Services Authority estimating that £5bn a year is lost to fraud from financial institutions. The loss from all companies is estimated to be £52bn a year in the UK alone.

‚ÄčThe problem is that fraudsters have got smarter and consumers have played into their hands by using easy to guess PIN codes and passwords. Testing of voice biometrics have been going on for some time and the success rate is significant, with differentiation even found in the voices of identical twins.

The problem for me is that banks and other business behemoths already try to force me to use their call centres no matter how many times I tell them that I am deaf and do not speak. With an attitude of protectionism to their bottom line, I foresee only a deterioration of the levels of discrimination that have been extended to me over many years.

How will being Deaf play into their introduction of voice biometrics. It would be great to be confident that an equality impact assessment will be undertaken before this change is thrust upon us. Sadly, past experience tells me I will be fighting for recognition that I am Deaf and an acknowledgement that I cannot use their voice biometrics system for many years to come. How will I use an interpreter or the Text Relay system, if I choose to use those lines of communication. It seems to me that the already muddy waters of third party access is likely to be even more of a mess.

I hope that I am proved wrong and that deaf people will be consulted before these changes are implemented, so that our communication needs are built in from the start, rather than have a repeat of the years of stress and anxiety I have experienced since big business went down the route of expanding their call centres years ago.

If you would like to read details of the story covered by the BBC you can do so by going to

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / News

12th November 2013