Beth Jamieson: How good are the top 10 phone and broadband companies at Deaf accessibility?

Posted on November 13, 2015

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After our blog about the ‘Big 6’ utility companies went down so well, we decided to replicate the same research methodology and look at how easy it was for Deaf customers to contact their phone and broadband providers with queries relating to their plans.

We had a list of 14 phone and broadband providers which we then pared down to our ‘top 10’ – these are o2, EE, Three, Vodafone, Tesco Mobile, Virgin Media, Giffgaff, BT, TalkTalk and Sky.

We took these top 10 and analysed their websites, specifically the contact and accessibility pages. Much like we did for the utility companies, we thought it was worthwhile finding out what these big, corporate companies were doing in terms of accessibility for their Deaf and Hard of Hearing Customers.

We visited the websites of the selected phone and broadband companies looking for Deaf accessibility. Some companies are doing well, whilst others could work a lot harder.

We’d like to hear both positive and negative experiences of contacting phone and broadband providers. This article goes on to discuss the analysis in detail but here is a table that shows a summary of our findings:

Anaylis-Table-phone1

Analysis:

Our methodology was to visit each website as if we were a customer looking to contact the company. We looked at:

  • Contact page: Do they have a contact page? Is it easy to find? How many clicks does it take to get to contact details that are useful for Deaf customers?
  • Accessible features on contact page: Do they have ways to contact them other than telephone? If they have a textphone number, is it clearly displayed and/or the same size as the ‘normal’ phone numbers? What are the options: textphone, live chat, VRI?
  • Accessibility Page: Do they have an accessibility page? Is it prominent? Do they have information about Deaf accessibility? What are the options: textphone, live chat, VRI?
  • Video Remote Interpreting: Do they have VRI? If yes, are there videos explaining how to use it? Does it need a plugin to work?

Findings:

9 out of the 10 phone/broadband providers have a contact us page
4 of which you can get to in two clicks or less
7 of the 10 phone/broadband providers have a textphone number
2 of which have it on the contact us page
9 of the 10 phone/broadband providers have an accessibility page
7 of which have useful information about accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing customers.
6 out of the 10 phone/broadband providers have VRI
2 of which have it on the contact us page
3out of the 6 have a BSL video on how it works.

Contact Page Analysis:

9 of the top 10 phone and broadband companies have a contact us page, 8 of which have some form of accessible contact. Some companies make it easier than others to find the useful contact details; two fantastic examples of this are EE and Virgin Media who not only have a textphone number but also a link to VRI services; Virgin Media also have a link back to their accessibility page! Impressed!

EE-Contact-us-Page-1024x522

Virgin-Media-Contact-us-page-1024x399

Accessibility Page Analysis:

Just like the utility companies, it is important for all phone and broadband providers to have an accessibility page in accordance with the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Accessibility Guidelines. However, not all of them have one (or not that I can see anyway); only 9 out of the top 10 have an accessibility page on their website.

Despite one of the providers not having an accessibility page at all, most of those that do, have accessibility information for Deaf customers. 4 of which have all three accessibility features we were looking for; live chat, textphone and VRI. These providers were o2,Three, Vodafone and Sky – here is Sky’s accessibility page as an example:

Sky-Accessibility-page

Live Chat:

6 of the top 10 providers have live chat as an option on their contact page. Some are obvious and easy to find, whilst others you have to look a little harder for. A good example of the use of live chat on the contact page is o2:

o2-contact-us-1024x428

Video Remote Interpreting Analysis:

We’ve seen already that the phone and broadband providers are doing better than the utility companies in terms of accessibility for Deaf customers. What makes this even better is that 6 out of the top 10 providers have a Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) Service for their Deaf customers to contact them through.

2 of those 6 not only have a VRI service but they also have a video explaining how their VRI works! These 3 companies are EE and Sky.

EE-VRI-Video-1024x525

Sky-VRI

Vodafone also provide a video on how to make the most out of your phone if you are Deaf or have restricted hearing. Unfortunately, the video is not in BSL or subtitled and therefore inaccessible for Deaf customers:

Vodafone-VRI-1024x578

Summary:

Overall, it is really encouraging to see that most of the phone and broadband providers are taking accessibility for Deaf customers seriously. Like the utility companies, some are doing all they can while others could work a little harder and add services such as Video Remote Interpreting – although 6 out of 10 is not a bad ratio to start with!

We live in a generation that is controlled by technology, all of us use it on a daily basis, so why not take advantage of the new systems to promote accessibility for all disabilities, not only hearing impaired?

If you are a customer, we would be interested in hearing your thoughts on why you think increasing accessibility is a potential challenge for some of these corporate companies.

If you are a phone or broadband provider and want to know more about how you can improve your accessibility, call Beth on 01763 209001 or drop me an email.

Beth Jamieson is Clarion’s Marketing Assistant. Find out more about the company, who support this website, here.

 

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