People with visual impairments and communications services
1.1 Key insights – people with visual impairments
A variety of factors influence experiences and attitudes to communication services
- Independence varied considerably from total dependence on others to living mostly independent lives; however all required assistance in accessing services at some stage
- Age had an impact on people’s attitudes to their impairments, with older respondents more likely to believe they had to adjust to access services while younger respondents were more likely to believe difficult access was due to a problem with the service
- There were many differences in terms of level, onset and variability of impairment which meant that the ability to tailor services and devices to suit the individual’s needs was very important
- People were very reliant on their memory (particularly if they had a severe or profound impairment); changes to the order of TV channels, for example, was a cause of irritation
- Being a part of a community (i.e. schools, social groups, workplaces, council networks) that helped or assisted those with impairments meant that members were more aware of services available to them. People who were not members of such communities typically had much more limited access to such information
1.2 Communications services – common themes across markets
Low expectations of service providers – desire for experience equivalent to others
- Expectations of service providers were low - it was expected that service providers could do little to assist them and many were unsure where to go for information. Therefore, respondents typically did not tell suppliers about their impairment; they were also embarrassed or did not want to divulge this level of personal information
- Specialist services and devices were perceived to be too expensive and excluded some from accessing required services; this was compounded by relatively low incomes
- Experiences that were equivalent to those experienced by all other consumers were desired in order to avoid drawing unwanted attention to their impairment; discrete services and devices were desired
Word of mouth was a key source of information
- Word of mouth was a key source of information particularly for those who had limited interactions with other visually impaired people. There was uncertainty about the existence of communication chains; some were unsure whether they should wait for people to approach them for assistance or if they needed to seek out the information
- Some found it hard to come to terms with their impairment (particularly if acquired) and were consequently reluctant to actively seek information as this was to acknowledge their impairment
Respondents were not always empowered to resolve their own queries
- Family members or friends may communicate with the suppliers on their behalf. However, sometimes these ‘representatives’ did not fully understand what was required and an inferior solution was reached
- Members of staff in call centres were unable to assist many of the people with visual impairments, insisting that they look at menus and devices, despite being told the caller could not see. They tended not to offer alternatives such as the assistance of a technician and many did not understand that the call might take longer than average.
Digital TV offered a good range of content but channel repertoire tended to be limited for those who could not see the on-screen guide
- Consumers with visual impairments rely heavily on memorising channel numbers for TV viewing. Therefore, re-ordering of channels meant that channels had to be re-learnt.
On-screen information was difficult to access for many - creating a barrier to use of interactive television for these consumers
- Small text and poor use of colour meant onscreen information was largely inaccessible to consumers with visual impairments. Moving information which was too fast or phone numbers which were read out too quickly or only displayed on-screen were also inaccessible. Many were unable to watch programmes with foreign content due to inability to use the subtitles.
Audio description was helpful – and socially beneficial – to those with severe or profound impairments
- Audio description has enabled many people with severe or profound visual impairments to get the full story without relying on other members of the household. This has been particularly good for new programmes to help imagine characters and situations and to understand ‘silent endings’ of films or dramas.
- It also appears to have been socially beneficial as respondents said they were able to engage in conversations about television from which they had previously been excluded.
- Audio description was less appealing to those with mild or moderate impairments who preferred to miss some details as extra detail was annoying; however it was regarded as beneficial for those with worse eyesight or for themselves if their eyesight were to deteriorate.
- There were some requests to improve the audio description service. Respondents wanted it to be available for more programmes, the narration to be improved by considering the level of detail provided and improving the fit of the narrator’s accent with the actors’ accents.
Customer service posed barriers for many in relation to setting up services and resolving problems with equipment
- Some suppliers sent a technician to install the service and showed respondents how to use the services. However, others relied on on-screen menus and instruction booklets and family members were therefore likely to be called on for assistance.
- It appeared that call centre staff were not able to offer solutions to callers who could not see. Members of staff were insistent that callers look at menus and equipment despite being told by the caller that they had a visual impairment. Many were unwilling to spend extra time on the call to enable the caller to resolve the problem for themselves. Assistance of technicians was not always offered or resulted in delays. Consequently some people had to rely on friends and family and in some cases cancelled their service.
Overall, the radio services worked well and the experience was equivalent to that experienced by other people
- Changing channels was easy but if errors were made this was less frustrating than it was with TV channels. Frequent announcements of the channel name were really helpful and this was contrasted to television where this did not work as well.
- Radio through digital TV was especially easy to navigate. While channel name announcements on digital radio were appreciated, some newer stations were not announced and this inconsistency was annoying.
1.5 Fixed line telephone
Similar to radio, fixed line telephone mostly worked well and service was satisfactory
- Consistent with UK trends, use of fixed lines appears to be declining amongst people with visual impairments. Many now use their mobile phones for calls and text messages and online communications as opposed to their landline.
- Large button phones were appreciated by those with mild or moderate impairments and handsets with poor colour contrast, cramped buttons and the absence of a raised dot on the 5 button were difficult to use.
1.6 Mobile telephone
Current mobile experience amongst people with visual impairments is not equivalent to other consumers - assistance was often required from friends and family
- Mobile customers with visual impairments didn’t tend to use all the functions available due to inaccessibility. For example, address book usage was limited due to the need to remember the order of entries or dial the number each time and assistance was often required in using text message services.
- Many used pay as you go phones but noted problems with the top up process – long numbers written in small print which they were required to enter into the phone.
Handset capabilities potentially play a greater role in network choice amongst people with visual impairments
- Most knew of several alternative networks and various competitor offers and felt confident to change suppliers. However, one barrier to switching, handset and/or network, was incomplete knowledge and low awareness of specialist software amongst staff. In addition, the relatively high cost of software required by some people to access mobile telephones was also acting as a barrier to ownership.
- For those who used talking software their choice of handsets and, therefore, network was limited as not all handsets were compatible. Some handsets could be adjusted to suit colour and text preferences which would assist visually impaired consumers; others did not enable the owner to tailor colour and text, which further limited their choice in the mobile market
Mobile phone suppliers were not always able to assist people with visual impairments
- Similar to television suppliers, some members of staff in call centres were unable to assist those who called with a problem, but said they could not clearly see their handset.
- Staff in retail outlets tended to have poor awareness of speech software which restricted choice for these consumers.
1.7 Computer and internet
Software trial periods may assist many people with visual impairments either get online or make greater use of the internet
- The software required by some people with visual impairments in order to use the computer/internet was considered useful and of a high quality, but too expensive.
- Speech recognition software was appealing in principle, but the software itself did not live up to expectations. Opportunities for trialling software options were limited but thought to be beneficial in order to find the most suitable solution according to personal requirements.
Some websites were almost inaccessible due to their design while others allowed users to tailor aspects which enhanced the experience for people with visual impairments
- Homepages which followed the standard layout with menus at the top and down the right hand side were easy to navigate. However, too much or hard to read text/font on the homepage, and lack of a sophisticated search function acted as barriers to use.
- Consumers with visual impairments would benefit from the ability to tailor the presentation of websites. For example, some sites had colour schemes that were difficult to read and images that lacked clarity.
Most were aware of alternative suppliers and felt confident to switch supplier
- Most respondents were aware of numerous alternative internet service providers and also of the various software options to assist users with visual impairments. Most felt confident to change supplier.
The full document is available below
In this section
Full Print Version