I thought it was just business as usual the other day at work. I was making phone calls as I usually do, using my Plantronics handset lifter and Bluetooth device.
The receptionist at the Urbana company answered the phone and I as usual identified myself and PACE. Then I briefly explained that I am using a Bluetooth and I asked if the receptionist could hear me. The receptionist said that could hear me a little bit but it was difficult and then abruptly hung up on me.
I was astonished, flabbergasted, and pissed off. I know from working in the disability community and having many friends with many different kinds of abilities that communication access is a huge issue; I am certainly not the first person that has been hung up on in a business.
I called back, got the same person. This time she responded to me with an annoyed tone in her voice and stayed on the phone. For my own communication access I said like the last call, I am still using a Bluetooth to speak with you so I want to make sure that you can hear me, or are you going to hang up on me again? So I kept going, the advocate in me ready. I said," because I'm not the only person with a disability who might be calling you. There could be people different kinds of abilities calling you: people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people with speech difficulties, etc. given that you are a medical supply company (company name omitted).
Apparently, the fact that people with disabilities make business calls to her agency scared her. I think that me telling her that out right made her think. Unfortunately she began her process by treating me very condescendingly. She assumed that my disability precluded me from being able to understand transactions in the billing department. The receptionist insisted on handling my call even though she admitted that she does not handle billing. Her negative attitude toward me and my disability only fueled my advocacy to get my need met. She didn't stop me. She certainly didn't placate me. I just insisted to speak to someone in the billing department and I said I would not get off the phone until she transferred my call appropriately. She did so.
Interestingly, the woman in the billing department said that she could understand me perfectly.
So I ask you, is this receptionist an example of someone who was simply not paying attention? More dangerously, is this an example of someone who also has significant attitude problems toward people with disabilities and yet works for a company that serves people with disabilities?
Advocacy, access, and communication; all in a day’s work. What are your access nightmares?