Guardian: ‘Disenfranchised’ Disabled Customers

Here’s some of the stuff I have been working on in the Guardian..full article here.

Phone providers are ‘disenfranchising’ disabled people from society – Ofcom

disabled Disabled people get ‘shockingly inadequate’ service from mobile phone providers, according to an Ofcom survey. Photograph: Stephen St. John/Getty Images/National Geographic RF

Disabled consumers receive such a shockingly inadequate level of service from communication providers that they are being “disenfranchised from society”, according to a survey conducted by Ofcom.

The communications regulator anonymously contacted BT, Orange, O2, TalkTalk, T-Mobile, Virgin Media, 3 and Vodafone, asking for advice on the services available for blind or visually impaired customers. It found that, even after prompting, a quarter of consumers were either not given information or were told that the providers didn’t offer any special services for disabled customers.

Anna Bradley, chair of the Communications Consumer Panel, which advises Ofcom on consumer interests, said: “The results were shocking. Both fixed and mobile providers are required by Ofcom not only to make services available for disabled consumers, but to make sure consumers can find out about those services.

“Ofcom’s mystery shopping has revealed a picture of inadequate, misleading or non-existent information across all providers.”

The report found that 75% of consumers are given information on services for disabled people once prompted, down from 91% when the survey was last conducted in 2006.

Mark Shrimpton, deputy chief executive of RADAR, the UK’s largest disability campaigning organisation, said: “People who don’t have access to these technologies are effectively being disenfranchised from society. It is the responsibility of mobile providers to make it clear to disabled customers the services they provide.

“I’d advise disabled customers to shop around and avoid those that are not prepared to make reasonable adjustments or even tell customers about their services. The other choice that we have is litigation under the Disability Act. This really is a serious matter.”

UK operators have been urged by Ofcom to do more to publicise services available to disabled customers and to set out a plan of action to make these improvements.

Ofcom also claimed it would “consider taking enforcement action if necessary, which could result in a fine of up to 10% of turnover for those failing to meet their obligations”.

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