Disability And Voice Recognition Systems

I recently tried phoning British Gas because our boiler developed a leak.

I then hit a much bigger problem when I had no choice but to ‘interact’ with their hopeless voice recognition system. In an emergency you need to speak to someone, not a computer.

You see, when you have a speech impairment like me, these interactive voice response systems (IVRs) are literally useless because they can’t recognise what you are saying and there is no interaction.

I dread making a phone call at the best of times because of my speech problems but as soon as a voice recognition system kicks in, I know it won’t end well.

Automatic speech recognition systems are a huge barrier to phone communication for people with any sort of speech impairment and this includes fatigued speech.

Getting to speak to a real person on the telephone is an ordeal and traumatic because you have to jump through hoops and options, some of which actually direct you to a website and then cut you off. The level of frustration and inconvenience is off the scale.

But back to British Gas.

I tried and tried to make myself understood but in the end my wife had to phone and even with a perfectly clear speaking voice, even she encountered problems.

British Gas have the nerve to ask for feedback on their service after you do manage to get through but they never do a damn thing with the feedback you give them as a disabled customer.

Organisations like British Gas like to give the impression that they are inclusive and respect diversity but we all know this is window dressing because if they were accessible then they wouldn’t be putting their customers through this.

Other service providers, call centres, mobile phone providers, banks and building societies are the same. I’ve tried phoning these jokers too and they all have voice recognition systems in place which act as whopping barriers to customer service.

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.

Yet commercial organisations don’t do this, even when you give them feedback. Where does all this feedback go?

Why can’t disabled users be catered for and have the option of speaking to a ‘live agent’? The Equality Act requires organisations to take reasonable steps to make the phone arrangements accessible.

Disabled users should have access to a service as close as reasonably possible to that enjoyed by non-disabled individuals.

Computer answering systems are a joke and companies who use them are just laughing at us.

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