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Telephone Services

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Audience: Business Services
Runtime: 1:22 mins
Focus: Steve Wells on using a communication assistant over the phone.

This section includes information for receptionists and people who provide services over the telephone as well as suggestions for people with SLDs.

The following information is intended to provide a starting point to improve access to services for people with speech and language disabilities (SLDs), not caused by hearing loss. It is by no means a full comprehensive list of barriers or accommodations. It presents some of the unique challenges that people with SLDs may experience within this situation.

Contact us for more information on making your services accessible.

Sample Communication Access Barriers over the Telephone

Many of us who have Speech and Language Disabilities (SLDs), experience the same barriers as people who have mobility, sensory and other disabilities. In addition, we may experience unique communication barriers due to our speech and language disability. These barriers may include:

  • Not having our speech and / or communication device understood over the phone
  • Having someone hang-up because they think our unclear speech is due to being drunk or that our device is an automated sales call
  • Not accepting assistance from our communication assistant / interpreter
  • Not being able to use automated prompts (numbers to navigate the phone system)
  • Confusing a communication assistant that assists people understanding our messages with a power of attorney or someone making decisions for us
  • Not being able to participate and effectively communicate in teleconferences
  • Not knowing about message relay services that are typically marketed to people who are Deaf or having hearing loss
  • Increased cost of telephone services due to slow rate of communication
  • Not being able to use relay service operators because operators have no training in interpreting impaired speech
  • Not accepting ways other than the telephone to access services (e.g. text, email, or assistance)
  • Not having video relay services with trained operators who can interpret communication via communication boards and devices

Sample suggestions for people who provide services over the telephone

People who provide telephone services require training, information, and resources to communicate effectively with us. This includes:

  • Having policies, procedures and training in how to communicate with those of us who have unclear speech, who use speech output devices, communication assistants, message relay services and other communication methods
  • Providing the option to communicate with a live person rather than select number prompts on a telephone to access a service
  • Having multiple ways to access services including text, email, internet, voice over internet, instant messaging, message relay services, video over internet etc.
  • Having policies and procedures in place for us to use our approved communication assistants over the telephone. This may involve having a signed document, password, or personal identity number to identify our communication assistant and procedures to ensure that we are present and communicating via our assistant
  • In some situations, encryption may be required for security reasons where email is an accessibility option to the telephone
  • Some organizations may want a separate email / telephone stream for people who have disabilities where staff has extra training on accessibility requirements

Resources for People who provide telephone services

Sample Suggestions for People with SLDs

  • Decide how we want to communicate over the phone with familiar and unfamiliar people
  • If we choose to use a speech-generating device, we should be prepared to state up front that we are using a device to communicate and ask the person to be patient and to stay on the line as it may take some time for us to type and speak out our messages
  • If we choose to use our own speech, we should be prepared to tell the person that we have a disability that makes our speech unclear, to tell us if they don’t understand what we are saying and that we will repeat our message
  • If we prefer to use ways other than the telephone, we can tell the organization what works best for us. For example, text, email, message relay service or a communication assistant
  • If we choose to use an assistant when communicating over the phone with organizations about sensitive or confidential matters (e.g. healthcare, banking, credit card or taxes), we should negotiate a process with the organization telling them that we authorize the person to assist us. That may involve meeting with the organization and signing a document with the name(s) of our assistants, negotiating a personal identification code or password they can use to identify themselves and a process which can be used to ensure that we are present and directing our communication assistant over the phone (e.g. video / audio / messaging).

Resources for People with SLDs