Comcast’s continued commitment to accessibility

This post has been sponsored by Comcast and shares Comcast’s newest commitment to accessibility via the ASL NOW service.

Comcast Commitment to Accessibility

There’s been entire comedy shows and TV programs devoted to how annoying it can be to call into companies for help. Yes, I get it. It can be time consuming and you can get frustrated stuck in a phone tree loop that leads nowhere, and maybe you can leave thinking you wasted your precious time and energy.

But, what if that little inconvenience was bigger than that? What if calling into the company also required interpreters and services that are ill-equipped to handle your issue?

That’s been the experience of many in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community for decades, and it is more than just a minor inconvenience. It can mean the difference in getting the job, receiving good healthcare, buying the house, or fixing something broken inside your home. Sometimes, it can be life and death.

Talking about Accessibility

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the idea of interpreters, right? Well, the Deaf Video Relay System {VRS} works in a similar fashion to any other language translation, only it uses video as well as audio. Basically, those that are Deaf or hard-of-hearing can use it to talk to others via a sign language interpreter, who uses a conventional telephone at the same time to communicate with the deaf person’s party.

As wonderful and entirely necessary as the system can be, it’s not without its problems. The first being the obvious lag time that happens when one person communicates and then waits for a translation to be shared, and then waits for their party to respond. The other problem is that it turns a simple call into a game of “Telephone” where details may get lost in translation or misconstrued.

I know firsthand how frustrating the VRS process can be. When I was a teen, I took a few years of ASL in college and really enjoyed learning the nuances of the language. In our second year of schooling, we were given the assignment to call a company using the VRS. Easy enough, right?

Back when I was in college, the VRS service was relatively new and groundbreaking compared to the voice interpreters my Deaf friends grew up with. I went into the project with high hopes, thinking things were finally fully accessible to the Deaf community. Instead, I found myself very frustrated at the process. To say the service had problems was an understatement.

 We all make quick phone calls to businesses and work colleagues all the time without even thinking about it, and it never dawned on me just how easy we all had it. That experience using the VRS and feeling frustrated getting a simple answer was absolutely eye opening for me.

Comcast’s commitment to accessibility: ASL NOW

As part of their ongoing commitment to accessibility, Comcast has figured out a way to provide fully inclusive customer support assistance to their Deaf and hard-of-hearing customers. One of only 7 companies in the United States that offers support service in ASL, it’s just another way Comcast is working hard to make their technology available to all through the Comcast Accessibility Center of Excellence {ACOE}.

The service is called ASL NOW and it is provided by Connect Direct. The service is groundbreaking in that it ensures faster, more accurate results and resolutions for Comcast’s Deaf and hard of hearing customers. Who wouldn’t prefer to communicate in their native language and have a direct connection to the businesses you use as opposed to using translation services and just hoping for the best?

The ASL NOW team is fully comprised of trained Deaf representatives. Instead of interpretation services, which use randomly assigned interpreters that may have little-to-no knowledge of the topic or product(s) being discussed, the ASL Now representatives are innately familiar with Comcast’s brand and services. This is a really big deal.

“I can use my voice but chose to use the ASL service because there were so many miscommunications on the voice line,” said one customer. “ASL NOW’s Xfinity customer service rep was amazing. Helpful, patient, thorough, explained everything…. It even took less time than with voice customer service! I am so impressed. This is a phenomenal service.”

https://youtu.be/XJUFRskaWP8

National Deaf Awareness Month

In honor of National Deaf Awareness Month, spokespeople from Comcast and Connect Direct are available via remote video to demonstrate the ASL NOW experience. In addition to providing an inclusive experience to Deaf customers, this partnership has also created employment opportunities for Deaf jobseekers.

I remember learning about how the Deaf and hard-of-hearing population has been historically under-employed and unemployed back when I was in school, so I love that this new partnership opens up more employment options to the community. The ACOE, located in Spokane, Washington, is the company’s largest accessibility support center in the United States. The center features a team of specially trained agents who ensure customers with disabilities navigate Comcast’s technology successfully.

Comcast Commitment to Accessibility

Comcast’s ongoing commitment to accessibility

This week, I got to speak with Michele Gifford, the Manager of Comcast’s Accessibility Center of Excellence {ACOE} and Christy McBee, the National Operations Manager for Connect Direct. I got to ask them questions and hear why they love the ASL NOW service that Comcast provides.

They both spoke of how ASL NOW alleviates so many of the problems both Deaf and hard-of-hearing customers were having accessing tech support and customer service via VRS. I got to see those frustrations firsthand from Christy McBee as she used ASL to communicate with our team via Zoom call. She explained about how ASL NOW does away with the dreaded lag time and actually reduced call times by approximately 33%, making for a more positive experience for customers.

Comcast Commitment to Accessibility

Michele spoke of the ways the ACOE has worked to provide the best customer service possible to Comcast’s customers with a disability. And, this is no small feat. The U.S. Census reports about one-third of American households have a member who has a disability. As someone with both Deaf and blind friends, I have so appreciated watching Comcast up their Commitment to Accessibility these past few years through the ACOE.

What’s next for Comcast’s commitment to accessibility?

Comcast is continually offering accessibility options to their valued customers. From the X1 voice remote for the visually impaired or those who cannot read, to the Braille options for bills and other correspondence, their amazing dedicated support, and now to the inclusion of ASL NOW that can help those who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing. Xfinity Customers who rely on accessibility services have direct access to a specially trained customer support team via Comcast’s Accessibility Support Center for Customers with Disabilities and they pride themselves on providing the highest levels in support.

Comcast has remained committed to making their products accessible to the widest possible audience and to those who need their services the most. I’ve talked before about the amazing programs Comcast has initiated that help close the digital divide and provide technology services where they have been historically low, and this is just another step in their process.

It’s been exciting to me to see the passion and excitement the Comcast employees and representatives have for inclusion. They are constantly searching for new and improved ways of assisting their customers, whether it’s through disability services or through training and support for programs that offer accessibility to all. 

You can find out more about getting help and support from Comcast in American Sign Language for Xfinity here. You can see what services are provided and how to contact their representatives via ASL NOW on the Xfinity website.

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