Ofcom release disability awareness information.

1st June 2010

Research commissioned by Ofcom into the needs of disabled people when using communications services showed that difficulty dealing with call centres was a common problem. The same issue is also regularly raised with us by disability organisations.

Things disabled people tell us include the following:

• Blind people have reported that call centre workers assume that callers can see and are unable to divert from the script – even when they know that the customer cannot do what they are asking, e.g. read a serial number

• Deaf people report that call centres regularly hang up when they call via the text relay service

• Hard of hearing people have told us that requests to speak more slowly are often ignored

• People who have learning disabilities or have suffered a head injury tell us that they find menus and entering numbers (e.g. their account number) difficult.

Ofcom is keen to promote good practice and to act on the issues raised with us by disabled users of communications services.

Why this matters

Making services more accessible to older and disabled consumers makes business sense. As the population gets older, this becomes even more important – for example, among people over the age of 60, 54% are deaf or hard of hearing and 8% are blind or partially sighted. The Disability Discrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of disability in the provision of goods and services, and says that service providers must make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled people to use their services.

Top tips for call centre staff

• Speak clearly and into the microphone

• Don’t speak too quickly, and slow down if requested to do so

• Be prepared to repeat or rephrase

• Give the caller time to explain fully – don’t interrupt

• If you receive a call via the text relay service, don’t hang up – the relay assistant will help with the call. You can find information about this service at www.textrelay.org

• Don’t assume the caller can see (for example, to read a serial number) – it may be necessary for someone else to help with this, so please be patient

Top tips for businesses using call centres

• All call centre staff should be given disability awareness training

• Offer customers the choice of contacting your business by post or email as well as phone

• When customers have to confi rm complex details over the phone, offer them the chance to have information posted or emailed for confirmation

• Call centre speech levels (at headset and system output) should meet international standards and should be checked on a regular basis

• If you advertise a textphone number, make sure that your staff know how to answer and use the textphone

Many services are now available by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This has provided greater convenience and accessibility for many customers, including disabled customers who sometimes find using high street shops and services difficult. However, some disabled customers report a lack of disability awareness when dealing with call centres.