Making deaf children matter

Musings and blogs from a deaf campaigner

Deaf access fail at the Department for Work and Pensions

Posted by Ian Noon on August 10, 2012

Imagine someone telling a wheelchair user that the disabled toilets are just up the stairs. You’d think it bonkers. Well, the Department with overall responsibility on disability policy seem to be on well on their way to pulling a similar trick with deaf people.

There’s been lots of discussions about how the process for claiming the new Personal Independence Payments benefit will work in practice. In a nutshell, you have to make a pre-claim before you’re given a personalised form for your proper claim.

And how do you get a pre-claim form? Easy, you give the benefits team a call and they will do a short interview over the phone. And if you have problems using the phone? No worries, you’ll get a paper form to complete. And how do you get a paper form? You give the benefits team a call.

Frankly, it’s more than just a little disconcerting that the people looking after benefits for disabled people haven’t quite twigged that not every disabled person can use a telephone or have a textphone. So much for the new digital age and for the Government leading by example when it comes to access for disabled people… Am told that Department officials are working on trying to get an online form set up for the new PIP benefit… but it may not be ready in time when the new benefit launches in April next year.

They’d better get a move on. It’s not only just bonkers and ludicrous, but discriminatory.

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5 Responses to “Deaf access fail at the Department for Work and Pensions”

  1. Zoe said

    Tax credits were the same – not sure if they changed this. They would not let me speak to get a deaf man the form – they would not post the form to his home address and said he had to go into the office himeself and physically pick up the form. I explained he has no voice and is BSL only and asked how they would communicate with him and they made no allowances. He had to take a family member in and felt like a child. Hopefully this has now changed.

  2. Tina said

    Frankly, I expect this of them. And why does it take so long for them to create an online form? I can do that in a few minutes. Hopeless jobsworths!

    • patrik said

      Tax credits were the same – not sure if they changed this. They would not let me speak to get a deaf man the form – they would not post the form to his home address and said he had to go into the office himeself and physically pick up the form. I explained he has no voice and is BSL only and asked how they would communicate with him and they made no allowances. He had to take a family member in and felt like a child. Hopefully this has now changed.

  3. You can’t be serious. This has to be a joke.

  4. barakta said

    FWIW when I could last type properly a month ago I did phone the textphone lines on a day off and they are answered by humans who can actually type. Here is my notes of my call made using a Minicom 6000p.

    TXD DIALING 180015 0800 917 7777 at 2013-04-24-16:21 [I probably didn't pick the best line to call in hindsight]

    {The DWP clearly have routing where the call is answered, a spew of automated words (you can tell, it’s too smooth and fast to be a typist) about the service happens and recording calls and retaining personal details etc.}

    {Then suddenly it got interrupted (but I think that’s intentional) by “To talk in English type 1″ “To talk in Welsh type 2″ which confused me for a second as it switched auto spews.}

    I typed “1 GA” and got “Connecting” for a while then “Connected”

    Then I got an obvious human who said hello her name was G how could she help GA

    She could type – not very fast but reasonably accurately.

    I explained I was calling to find an alternative to the phone as many deaf folk don’t have a textphone, can’t use voice and people like me have other impairments which affect our ability to type a lot of the time.

    I was asked if I wanted to make a new claim and said potentially but the phone was a problem.

    G replied to say the textphone WAS the alternative (common misapprehension and belief textphones are suitable).

    I said some people don’t own textphones anymore and I often can’t type well enough to use a textphone.

    G said I could go into my local jobcentre [The cynic in me says no chance and they'd stonewall the crap out of me as per usual or not know anything about it]

    I then asked why there was no email as this is often deaf people’s preferred communication method.

    G said there was currently no email address available but a digital application process was planned for the future.

    I asked if the DWP considered it reasonable to start up a service aimed at disabled people which was not fully accessible.

    G said she could not answer this (nicely done – well trained fob off)

    I asked why PIP forms weren’t on the website like DLA forms currently are

    G said she could not answer this (again).

    I asked nicely if I could speak to G’s manager please.

    G asked me to wait for a minute and she would speak to her manager – I thanked her.

    V came onto the call and introduced herself by name as G’s team leader

    I re-outlined all my concerns to V

    V asked my name and I said I didn’t wish to give it at this point, said I was a deaf and disabled person who was trying to get the DWP to recognise there were serious accessibility problems with even accessing PIP as part of a bigger problem with government bodies who are obsessed with phones.

    V handled the comments very well, she said she wasn’t able to answer the questions I had as she only knew about TextBox (Textphone software installable on organisational PCs) and there was a digital system planned for the future. She also said she could pass my concerns to the PIP Project team and ask them to respond to my concerns if I wanted.

    I said I appreciated that as I didn’t think it was acceptable for the government to provide deaf people with less favourable treatment with “future” as an excuse. I asked if the project team could respond to me by email.

    V said she would ask them to and asked for my email address.

    I gave her my email address and said I was happy for them to have my name (I use my realname gmail for FOIing people and official stuff like this).

    V said she would pass my concerns and address on and it would probably be tomorrow before they called me. {Reminds me, they haven’t emailed me – it’s been a month – I now need to complain about this}

    I said I appreciated her and G’s help and that the textphone service had been answered as not all services are. I said I would let them get on as I know they won’t want to have too much time wasted.

    V then checked whether I wanted to make a request for a PIP form now they would take my details and let me know about it when it is fully operational.

    I said I would probably go into a jobcentre as recommended by G explaining that I don’t do benefits applications by phone as they invariably get screwed up.

    V then asked me if I was aware that PIP was only available in specific areas at the moment and that not all jobcentres would have the forms.

    I extricated myself by saying that I was aware of the limited claims areas but not that not all jobcentres would have the forms (this could be parsed as jobcentres in area vs in general) and that I was still investigating whether I actually wanted to claim or not.

    V said I could contact them at any time and they would arrange to have the forms sent out to me and that she would pass on my concerns to the project manager.

    I then remembered to ask if the forms were paper only as I can’t handwrite either.

    V confirmed they are still only paper as they are subject to change

    I said I would have to arrange assistance to complete the forms and thanked her again and said I would let them go and made my sign off and got a thanks before V signed off too.

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