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Regrets, I’ve Received a Few

Posted by safeandsilent on March 3, 2013

My email folders are full of messages like this:

“[Organization] is committed to AODA and, in particular, listening to our customer concerns and working towards an accommodating solution. We regret the advertisements that were not closed captioned, and are working with all lines of business on meeting the requirements of the Integrated Accessible Standard and all other standards under AODA. In addition, we are working with various vendors to ensure such an oversight does not occur again.”

“you are right that our ads are to be close-captioned. We’ve had some personnel changes at our Agency while these were being produced so I’m waiting on some feedback from them and then we’ll resolve. Our apologies on behalf of the Zoo since it appears that we let you down on your earlier correspondence a year ago. We get 100’s of emails sent to the Zoo each week looking for all sorts of information and regrettably yours never made it to me. “

“I sincerely apologize for your experience in that my hotel was not as prepared as it should have been with the proper equipment for your stay.”

“It was a complete oversight. We so much assumed that it would be part of the process that we didn’t think to check and make sure that it was. We’ll make sure that all our PSAs are captioned from now on, and are going to begin to caption the videos on our Youtube channel, too.”

“I am diligently working on finding interpreters for the meeting. I am so sorry this has happened. I have no explanation other than my oversight. In order to avoid this ever occurring again, I will confirm interpreters for all meetings going forward and will cancel if not needed rather than confirming each meeting as we go along.”

“We sincerely regret to learn of the difficulties you experienced and offer our most sincere apologies. It is always our intent to provide the best care possible to our customers requiring added assistance, and we have taken care to establish procedures to ensure that all aspects of their journey are a positive experience. Customer feedback is extremely valuable in assessing our performance and critical in our efforts to improve our service and your comments will be given full consideration in our ongoing product review and development efforts. Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns. We greatly appreciate your continued support and we remain committed to providing you with our highest standard of service.”

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention as I was aware that the interpreter did not attend. I thought she was booked as I had emailed the invitation to her and she said she was available.” (This one doesn’t even apologize.)

Some apologies are accompanied by explanations that seem to be presented as the basis for rapport, but in fact just amplify the oversight: “I worked as a sign language interpreter in the past”, “my parents are deaf”, “my son met a deaf kid at summer camp”. Having seen people with disabilities and deafness passed over for Disability/Accessibility positions, I imagine that some people in these roles have parlayed these slender links to disability as authority on diversity, disability, and accessibility.

Hiring managers need to stop and question these claims of indirect authority a little more. I know it’s easier for a manager to talk to a hearing person who knows sign language than to a deaf person who does not speak or lipread, but the hearing person who knows sign language is not deaf. They only indirectly know what access means to me.

Yes, it’s refreshing to know how committed and passionate everyone is about accessibility. I bet they get together at quarterly Breakfasts of Diversity and Accessibility Champions and give each other attaboys for their commitment and passion.

Me, when I’m standing in a hotel lobby at 10:30 pm, I just want to go to bed in a room where I won’t die in blissful ignorance if there’s a fire, and have a means to wake up for 8:00 am meetings. I just want to turn my television on and see what other people see. (Even if it’s ads for Princess Margaret Hospital raffle. They have taken great care of me, but their ads exclude me, so I won’t give them $1.) And when I volunteer at an organization for months or years, I want to relax and rely on having interpretation, not receiving an abject apology. This is where the commitment and passion fall apart.

It is popular to say that attitude is the first requirement for accessibility, but it is absolutely meaningless without action. It doesn’t matter to me how embarrassed, devastated, regretful you are. Your attitude and even your apology does not enable me to participate, earn my living, pay taxes, purchase and consume goods and services, volunteer, and contribute to society. That takes action.

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