Accessibility in Telecom: Thriving in a Customer-Centric World

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules under Section 255 of the Communications Act require telecommunications equipment manufacturers and service providers to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities if such access is readily achievable. While this regulation has been around since 1996, telecom companies and device manufacturers are now starting to view accessibility as a competitive advantage vs. just a regulation that needs to be met.

Take the example of Samsung, a telecommunications equipment manufacturer that has decided to place a greater strategic focus on creating an inclusionary environment for individuals with disabilities. The video below, “Hearing Hands,” from earlier this year is more than just a touching advertisement – it is an example of the proactive measures being taken in this industry to create superior and inclusive customer experiences as the next opportunity for retention and growth.

As per a recent report on 2015 Telecommunications Trends by Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) “Wired and wireless carriers confront a rapidly shifting technology landscape in which small steps toward digitization are no longer enough.” I would add to this by saying that digitization is also not going to be enough unless customers of all abilities are taken into account and included. With customer retention being a key challenge faced by telecoms and baby boomers retiring and aging, providing accessible services will be an important opportunity for telecoms to boost loyalty and overcome market challenges such as rate wars, the rise of the social customer and the constant inflow of new players in the market.

There are many types of disabilities for which accessibility is implemented in different ways, and I’ll focus on accessibility for individuals with visual impairments in this blog post. Visually impaired individuals are very much a digital population. They have several types of assistive technologies at their disposal, such as desktop and mobile screen readers on Windows, Apple, Android, iOS and other operating systems to help them gain access to content. In fact, a recent 2014 study from Web AIM Screen Reader User Survey indicates that visually impaired individuals use advanced technology available to the sighted population, with the use of mobile on the rise from 61 percent in 2012 to 72 percent in 2014.

With baby boomers aging and retiring, the demand for these technologies and information in formats compatible with them is growing, along with the expectation for a comparable user experience as provided to sighted users. No longer are these individuals willing to go through long-winded request processes for alternative formats – they want on-demand and real-time access to their information in digitally accessible formats, just as anyone else would.

Telecommunication companies currently address requests for accessible monthly statements and communications for visually impaired individuals by providing these documents in braille, large print or audio formats. Requesting alternative formats is a laborious process in itself, and converting the documents is both expensive and time-consuming due to the manual effort involved. This approach requires individuals with visual impairments to self-identify, which defeats the very purpose of regulations like Section 255 that aim to create an inclusionary environment for people of all abilities.

The OpenText Solution

OpenText has an automated solution that enables organizations such as large telecommunications companies to automatically generate accessible PDF statements without requiring customers to self-identify. The solution can take existing high-volume documents such as statements stored in archives, or even bolt on to composition systems that generate statements and transform them to WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant PDFs quickly and easily. This approach is fast, inexpensive and dramatically reduces the effort required in providing accessible formats to customers.

Today over 20.6 million Americans over the age of 18 are reporting vision loss, and that number is growing. Prevent Blindness America estimates that the population of people experiencing blindness and visual impairment will double by 2030 unless corrective actions are taken. The traditional customer profile is changing, and so must organizations that wish to thrive in a customer-centric world.

Learn more about the OpenText Automated Output Accessibility solution.

Featured image courtesy of Joseph Morris.

Meha Varier

Meha Varier is Product Marketing Director for OpenText’s Customer Experience Management division that offers a set of applications focused on delivering personalized content and engaging interactions along a continuous customer journey. With over 12 years of experience in product marketing and digital marketing at various enterprise software and digital companies, Meha brings extensive knowledge on how digital transformation drives customer experience and engagement.

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