Monday, 04 May 2015 17:29

PIN system to improve deafblind access to telco service centres

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A new model has been proposed to make it easier for deafblind consumers to access telco customers service call centres.

The recommendation for a new access model comes from the Assisted Access study by Able Australia, which was funded through the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) Grants Scheme.

According to Able Australia, consumers who are deafblind have both a significant hearing and vision loss, and current information and privacy practices usually require the customer to interact using their own voice – not a facilitator’s – and therefore prevent these consumers from easy phone access to their telcos.

Able also says text based alternatives are often also inadequate when using specialised screen set ups and braille based systems.

The study examined the current options available in Australia and reviewed systems in place overseas to access customer service and concluded that a solution could be the use of a personal identification number (PIN).

According to ACCAN, the unique PIN would resolve the privacy and security issues and provide an alternative to voice identification, and when presented along with other account information, a PIN should constitute sufficient identity verification for Deafblind consumers who need to communicate with call centre staff through an Auslan interpreter.

“The options available to Deafblind consumers at the moment are not adequate to allow them to easily access the customer service of their telecommunications provider,” said Able Australia researcher, Ben McAtamney.

“Smartphones and tablets give Deafblind consumers unprecedented independence and access to information and communication with the outside world. It’s important that issues with accessing telecommunications provider customer service are resolved so these consumers can interact through a third party effectively.”

The report suggests that the PIN could work in two ways – either as a randomly generated PIN sent to the customer prior to each interaction, or as a number assigned to the customer and kept on file as part of their account information. ACCAN says using a PIN would add security and help to protect the customer’s privacy.

“ACCAN supports the conclusion of the study and hopes to see telcos allow Deafblind consumers easier access to customer service through the implementation of a PIN system,” said ACCAN Disability Policy Advisor, Wayne Hawkins.

“Telcos need to offer a range of customer service options so that Australians living with a disability can have independent access to easily manage their phone and internet accounts.”

The report also sought industry feedback on the proposed PIN system, and not-for-profit telecommunications provider, Jeenee Mobile, was receptive to the solution and is launching its PIN system today.

Under the Jeenee Mobile system customers will be able to select a PIN of their choice which will be attached to their account enabling Deafblind consumers to contact Jeenee Mobile through a third party using the PIN.

Jeenee Mobile’s General Manager, Jeremy Way said: “We were pleased to work with Able Australia to help develop a PIN system for Deafblind consumers to access our customer services. Jeenee Mobile works to support every Australian in making mobile services as accessible and inclusive as possible.”

Click here to download a full copy of the Assisted Access report on the ACCAN website.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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