Having been born Deaf, I think I manage pretty well with a cochlear implant, lipreading, email, Skype and sign language for most daily communication. I first came to the UK as a student from Israel and stayed – and generally speaking, the majority of people are helpful.
But there is one thing that I can’t seem to stop them doing, and that is phoning me despite repeated pleas for a text message instead.
It wouldn’t matter so much if this was just a one-off, since anyone can, of course, make a mistake. But this is persistent offences (and re-offences) from various organisations, all of which should be doing much better in terms of serving their Deaf customers.
Take Tesco, for example. (Yes, I wish someone would.) Online shopping is supposed to make life easier, saving time and even helping the environment a bit by saving on petrol. So I did I a big groceries shop over the web, asking them to text me as they were about to arrive, and excitedly waited for my delivery.
This request was completely ignored – they phoned me anyway, and although I got my stuff eventually, the whole thing was far more complicated and stressful than it should have been, or needed to be.
One of the UK’s biggest supermarkets should surely have known better. Sadly, though, they weren’t the only retailer to let me down in this way.
I made some purchases after a recent house move, and went, like everyone else, to Ikea for some items for the new flat. I emailed and sent online messages stressing that, if they phoned me, I wouldn’t be able to hear.
But they weren’t listening. They rang me – while I was in a bookshop – and I had to get a random stranger to help me out.
Yet another organisation to ignore my pleas for written communication was BT, when I needed a new phone line fitting. Again, I left numerous messages begging not to be phoned. Again, they responded by picking up their handsets and dialling my number.
I even got a message saying a BT engineer would be ringing me on a particular day! And I got worried because I knew I could be charged £130 if I didn’t hear or misunderstood, and the engineer showed up at a time when I wasn’t at home.
So I had to explain myself over online chat, losing more time, and in the end they said they would send me my router and I would just have to sort things out by myself.
This also happened with BUPA, who had no information on their website about how deaf people should contact them. In the end, I found an email address but it was harder than it should have been.
When I wanted to apply for a mortgage, the Halifax told me I had to bring a BSL interpreter along, even though that’s not the best way for me to communicate. I wanted them to write things down instead. In the end, I found a broker who got me a better deal.
Why is it that people never seem to understand why they should write things down, even after being told I am Deaf? Surely it’s time for a change, better awareness and proper training for all organisations dealing with the public?
Alex Orlov runs cseeker.co.uk, a Deaf communication support agency with his brother Guy. It also provides Deaf Awareness Training and one-to-one mentoring for Deaf students.
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