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Accessibility of Online Services and Merchants for Deaf / Hearing-Impaired Consumers

From: Gregg Vanderheiden <gv@trace.wisc.edu>
Date: Sun, 7 Oct 2001 23:02:23 -0500
To: "GLWAI Guidelines WG \(GL - WAI Guidelines WG\)" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <002301c14fae$0907e260$066fa8c0@750>
This item is posted for
Donald L. Moore
(W) 312.322.5879 (TTD)
(W) 312.322.5893 (Msgs)
Email: Moorela@Ameritech.Net


Memorandum

To: W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) / Web Content Accessibility Working
Group

From: Donald L. Moore

Date: 07/31/2001

Re: Accessibility of Online Services and Merchants for Deaf /
Hearing-Impaired Consumers



------------------------------------------------------------------------
--------

I would like to bring to your attention about the "Accessibility of
Online Services for the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired". Based on my
preliminary findings, I think the issue is worth pursuing and bring to
the attention of industries and businesses that frequently require
interaction and communication with consumers. After reviewing your web
site, it seems that there has been little coverage or discussion about
ensuring that deaf / hearing-impaired consumers are properly identified,
and that the proper method of communication takes place.

I examined how accessible on-line services (such as Internet banking,
on-line merchants and financial services) are to the deaf /
hearing-impaired population segment. Since companies are increasingly
using the Internet for marketing, servicing, and offering of services to
consumers, it brings up new problems. Online services accessibility
issues warrants further attention due to the increased potential for
communication mishaps for financial institutions and on-line merchants
not properly or adequately servicing this population segment. This is an
issue worth looking into because there are approximately 28 million
Americans that fall into this population segment 1, 2. Furthermore, as
the U.S. population lives longer and ages, more individuals will fall
into this segment.

Two examples of potential communication breakdowns are illustrated
below:

Example 1 (On-line Credit and Loan Applications)
Consumer "A", who is deaf / hearing-impaired, goes to BankABC's web site
and applies for a loan. The online application requires that they
complete the form with personal information such as: name, address,
telephone numbers, and if appropriate their credit information.
Occasionally (and often) financial institutions need to contact the
applicant for more information and / or to follow up on the application.
If the financial institution does not know how to appropriately contact
and work with the deaf / hearing-impaired applicant, their application
may be rejected since they were not able to conduct a follow up.
Consequently, it becomes an inconvenience for the consumer, increases
operating costs for the bank or business, and potentially places the
customer's reputation and credit information at risk.

The culprit: BankABC's web site failed to offer additional fields on
their online application to allow Consumer "A" to specify how they
should be contacted - whether by TTD, Relay Service, e-mail, or by other
means. They also fail to recognize the communication problem and
properly address it. This is just one prime example of what could go
wrong. Even as online banking and merchants continue to become more
popular and mainstream form of everyday consumer services, communication
problems with this population segment remains.

Example 2 (Job Applicant)
The Internet has also become a popular way to search and apply for jobs.
Job sites such as Monster.com, Hotjobs.com, and organizations allow for
on-line filing of resumes and job postings. Thus, applicants are usually
required to supply their telephone contact information to allow them to
be contacted for further inquiries. However, the organization,
recruiter, or search firm may not be aware that the applicant is deaf /
hearing-impaired and requires that they utilize other means of
communication such as the TTD and/or relay services.

While Internet e-mail is often a popular way to communicate, it is not
an entirely secure form of communication, and is not always recommended.
In addition, by listing a TTD number on one's web site does not mean
that they know how to service deaf / hearing-impaired consumers. On-line
web forms fail to help identify the need to use TTDs or other means of
communication for deaf / hearing-impaired consumers.

Example of an Web Form That Helps To Identify How The Consumer Should Be
Contacted    (SEE ATTACHED HTML FORM)
(On-line version of this form: deafcontactform.htm)





Points to consider


Some people within this community may fear that they would be
immediately rejected if it is known that they are deaf /
hearing-impaired. While others will greatly appreciate improved levels
of communication and services.
While this recommendation points out deficiencies with web based forms
and pages, many organzations still are not familiar with the low cost /
free available options for communicating with deaf / hearing-impaired
consumers. For instance, many states offer free relay services - which
can be used to call deaf / hearing-impaired parties for no charge
(cellular and long distance charges, etc. still apply).
You may want to consult with other organizations on this recommendation
and their views. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is a
potential starting place.  http://www.nad.org/   If needed, I could
assist in this matter.


If you would like to discuss this issue further, have recommendations on
how we can proceed, or have any questions or comments, please feel free
to contact me via e-mail at Moorela@Ameritech.Net
References:

1. "About N.A.D", National Association of the Deaf (NAD),
http://www.nad.org/about/

2. Carmen, Richard. The Consumer Handbook on Hearing Loss & Hearing
Aids: A Bridge to Healing, pg. 21, 2000.




-- ------------------------------
Gregg C Vanderheiden Ph.D.
Professor - Human Factors
Dept of Ind. Engr. - U of Wis.
Director - Trace R & D Center
Gv@trace.wisc.edu <mailto:Gv@trace.wisc.edu>, <http://trace.wisc.edu/>
FAX 608/262-8848 
For a list of our listserves send “lists” to listproc@trace.wisc.edu
<mailto:listproc@trace.wisc.edu>




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M8W0]5S-#)3(P0V]M;65N=',B/DUO;W)E;&% 06UE<FET96-H+DYE=#PO83X\
M+V9O;G0^( T*(" \8G(^#0H@(#QB<CX-"CPO<#X-"CPO8F]D>3X-"CPO:'1M
$;#X-"@``
`
end
Received on Monday, 8 October 2001 00:02:53 GMT

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