[NFBWATlk] thought this was a good read about amazon accessibility
lfitz50 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 1 19:54:20 UTC 2019
Thank you beth for that, I couldn't get the link to work.
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From: NFBWATlk <nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Merribeth Greenberg via NFBWATlk
Sent: Thursday, August 1, 2019 10:07 AM
To: NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Merribeth Greenberg <merribeth.manning at gmail.com>; Mike Mello <mikemello at google.com>
Subject: Re: [NFBWATlk] thought this was a good read about amazon accessibility
Prime Accessibility Flop On Amazon Prime Day Peter Slatin <https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterslatin/>Contributor
Diversity & Inclusion <https://www.forbes.com/diversity-inclusion>
I write about undoing norms that inhibit success for disabled people.
Imagine a shopping trip to a store. A really, really big store, and they are having a really, really big sale. You arrive with several items in mind. Because you know they will be almost impossible to find in this huge place, you need the assistance of someone with a thorough knowledge of which inventory items are where on the endless store shelves. You find just the right helper. They are pleasant and knowledgeable. Still, it is a big store, it’s a slog to locate even one of your wish-list items, but when you find it, the best part is that it’s marked down by 50% - not too shabby! Your gracious helper reaches for it, but surprisingly is simply unable to lift it from the shelf and place it in your shopping cart. What’s the matter, you ask? "Oh," says the assistant, "I am apparently not allowed to take this off the shelf. It is against our policy to allow customer service representatives to do this for their customers."
"But," the rep continued, "there is a solution: If you go back out into the parking lot, I will give you the GPS coordinates of this item on this shelf in this aisle, and you can come back and get it for yourself."
"Oh," you say. "I don’t know how to use this kind of GPS. Perhaps your boss can help?"
You both go in search of a boss. You finally find one, who asked you to find the aisle, shelf and item again. Naturally, this is still a bit beyond your capabilities, though you tried hard. Finally, you turned to the boss.
"Can you find it?" you asked. The boss can and does after some searching.
And – abracadabra – reaches up and calmly plucks the item off the shelf and places it in your cart.
How strange, you think, that an employee dedicated to customer service cannot perform this simple act of customer service and requires a superior to perform it instead. Nonetheless, aggravated though you are and feeling pressed for time, you head for the cash register to check out. You can’t wait to see this special price get rung up and take your bargain home.
However, when the cashier scans your item’s bar code, the original price pops up. There’s no discount. What? Whaa-aat? But the boss person who helped you has disappeared. You frantically race around and find another boss person. You take their hand and lead them to your register and show them what has happened.
"Ah," says the boss person. "How did you get this item?"
You explain about the helper and then the other boss.
"Oh," says the new boss. "We have another policy. If you didn’t take this specially priced item off the shelf by yourself, you do not deserve that special price. That’s not for you. You must pay the full price. Thank you for your purchase and for shopping with us. We are so happy to have your business. We are so proud of all of the help we have provided so you can shop with us. Didn’t you love the help we gave you? It is too bad that we can’t give you the price everybody else can pay. Come back any time!"
This was the picture I painted toward the end of a two-hour series of phone calls with Amazon for Kimberly M, an customer service manager, to whom I described my attempts to purchase various items with the help of the help desk on Amazon Prime Day. One sales rep on the accessibility customer service help desk had explained to me that she was unable to place certain items, like clothing that needed to be selected by color and size, into my shopping cart. I would have to do that. Another customer service rep later explained that if I wanted to purchase a specially priced Prime Day item, I would have to buy it the instant I selected it rather than go through the customer service desk. Doing so would simply erase any discount offered all other buyers.
Perhaps you are asking yourself why I needed to call an accessibility hotline rather than just go on Amazon.com <http://amazon.com/>, locate the items I want and buy them. It’s a good question. The answer is that, while it is possible for a blind person using a screen reader to shop on Amazon.com, it is extremely difficult. The web site can be navigated, but there is an enormous amount of trial and error, and it’s filled with pitfalls and tangents that take you away from where you want and need to do your shopping. If you get off on one of these tangents, either on purpose or through a misunderstood link, it’s not easy to find your way back. Thus, after being sued by and faced with numerous demonstrations by the National Federation of the Blind <http://www.nfb.org/>and others, Amazon created its accessibility customer service line. A great idea, although even better would be a web site that is easy for all to use with efficiency and ease.
I often feel incompetent when struggling with a web site’s interface. Some blind people must be able to do this, I think. And some can, but most can’t. One very cool customer service rep told me on the phone how she often listened helplessly as callers tried to navigate the Amazon site using their screen readers, even as they sought her help. And she also told me how often she and her colleagues have gone to higher-ups to explain that these policies defeat the very purpose of their work and discriminate against their visually impaired and blind customers. I was heartened that she understood and saddened that nothing had been done to improve things.
Kimberly told me that she is among those at the top of the front-line customer-service hierarchy and that everyone above her is “administrative.”
It was simply not possible for a customer to reach beyond her level to register a problem. It must have been frustrating for me, she acknowledged.
Not to worry, she said. She would tell the managers of the different lower-level customer service reps I had worked with and make sure the managers provided better training so this would not happen again.
But it’s not their training, I said. They don’t need training. They need to be enabled to serve their customers. They are customer service reps, not customer denier reps.
OK, said Kimberly. She would contact the software engineers and they would fix the problem.
But it’s not the engineers, I said. Someone created this policy and the engineers simply implemented it. I suggested that she consider taking some responsibility for this problem and bring it to the appropriate management team so they could actually decide whether to change the policy. She said she would. I asked her how I would learn whether the policy had been changed. She said that an email would be sent out to all Amazon customers.
If I received no email, then there had been no change.
The experience reminded me of trying to set up my new Amazon Echo. I followed the directions Amazon provided online as best as possible, but eventually, I gave in and called the accessibility customer service line.
The man I spoke with patiently walked me through the multi-layered process.
He continually expressed amazement as I managed each step and followed his instructions. Finally, Alexa spoke. Success! But the man on the other end of the phone line wasn’t buying it. “I don’t believe you’re blind,” he declared flatly. “You couldn’t have set that up if you’re blind.”
He wasn’t kidding.
Amazon announced recently the rollout of a $700 million company-wide training program focusing on closing the gap between artificial intelligence and human intelligence. The human intelligence that will ultimately inform and shape the artificial intelligence might need a refresher first.
On Thu, Aug 1, 2019 at 9:00 AM Mike Mello via NFBWATlk <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
> thought this was a good read about amazon accessibility
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