News30th July 2014

Stop Calling Me

What is so difficult to understand in the phrase, “Please text me”?

by Sarah Lawrence

What is so difficult to understand in the phrase, “Please text me” and why are some companies so reluctant to do so? As a Deaf woman I find the text function on my mobile phone a valuable means of communicating with the rest of the world. I hazard a guess that I send at least 100 texts a day to a wide range of people about a whole host of things.

As a BSL user, on the other hand, voice calls have no relevance to me, so the explosion in Call Handling Centres and the requirement to make telephone contact, directly discriminates against me. I can make video calls but that relies on the person at the other end also using BSL, so that tends not to work with most businesses either. I must confess to believing that being allowed to use text or email lines of communication would fit the ‘reasonable adjustment’ criteria in equality legislation, but no, that idea is plainly bonkers.

But why, when I ask an organisation that I am dealing with to text me because I am Deaf do they insist on ‘giving me a call’. Is this stupidity or another example of a lack of deaf awareness in our society? I recently sent a text to one company and asked them to text me back, since when I have received six calls – all, of course, unanswered and not a single text. I’m afraid my response is a simple one; I won’t be doing business with that company. Why are we still littered with businesses and organisations who do not understand the concept of ‘deafness’. It’s like the word Deaf is invisible to the reader and all they see is contact me.

Of course, it’s not just phone calls that are a problem. Reading Juri Brown’s experiences, described on his Facebook page a few days ago, when he tried to use a McDonalds ‘drive through’ and you come across a similar problem. Before he arrived at the window, Juri was expected to use a remote ‘order point’. When Juri drove on to the window to explain that he couldn’t hear what was being said at the order point, he was told that he needed to use the order point. He told the girl at the window that he was deaf and she told him he needed to use the order point. It all starts to sound a bit like Groundhog Day. The word Deaf again seeming to disappear in our interaction with these huge global companies.

It’s as though they are saying, “We’ve installed a remote ordering point, and come what may, you will use it”.

There really is a lack of empowerment of staff to operate outside that one ‘new and better’ process. Of course many of us have had similar experiences of McDonald’s over many years, with Juri’s post commented on by people from around the world showing that this is a problem designed and implemented at their Head Office. Some of the comments included:

“I am the same, I just drive straight to the order booth. They told me you need to go back to order through the speaker post, told them I am deaf. Oh she said, but your blocking the cars up etc. I said, you’re taking orders yourself, as she had headphone on, she got all heated.”

“Hundreds of deaf have the same problems.”

“I've never had problems with drive through. I've always ignored the speaker post and drive straight to them and told them I'm deaf and I can't hear the speaker post (I point at my ears at same time to gesture that ears are useless) and they've always seem to accept it and took my order from there.”

“If I have a problem, I speak to their manager and say I'm not wasting my fuel driving around again to order when I can here! Simples.”

“In the USA, we do the same. Have not had an issue (yet). There will always be someone who doesn't understand.”

“I just drive straight through and give him/her the phone with speakers on - it works every time. They think I can't 'speak'. Using speech can disable you even more.

“No issues here in Australia. Sometimes I write it all down ready to go so don't hold up cars behind me.....and with a big smile.”

“In the past, I walked up to the window when I can and ask for the order, even showing my blackberry with my orders, then I wait. Easier for me. I don't go to McDonalds anymore.”

These are just two examples of the frustrations that we have to endure every day. There are plenty more and we would love to hear about your experiences.

Like many deaf people around the world, I would love to know why we have to endure these frustrations. Is it through simple ignorance? Is it simply a lack of deaf awareness training? A paramedic from the West of England told us recently that her professional training did not contain a single reference to communicating with deaf people! Or do businesses simply think the ‘deaf pound’ isn’t worth very much.

Maybe, of course, it’s all our fault. If I wasn’t Deaf it wouldn't be a problem. Because I’m Deaf I just have to accept that business processes are not for me. Perhaps we fail to make our needs known? Do we too readily accept this lack of effort to communicate with us? In the film, ‘Network’, newsreader Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, develops a catchphrase, “We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore.” Anyone else think this might be a good slogan for the deaf community?

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / News

30th July 2014