moderated Re: Working with people at disability help desk

Joseph Hudson

Hello Shirley, well the thing is I give them quite a bit of information to access my file. It should be notated somewhere on my account that I am a blind and visually impaired individual.

On Mar 6, 2021, at 2:02 PM, Shirley Tracy <> wrote:

I’ll put my 2 cents in just once here. Give them a break. Some people are partially sighted and the people helping don’t know who can see what. And they may ask to determine if you can see at all or if they need to describe differently. Also, I think people in general don’t think. Even my own friends forget I’m totally blind. They’ll tell me something is in the green bin or such and I have to say, “And which one is green?” It’s automatic for them.
I try not to embarrass them and just make a joke of it. But I do speak truth and often we have a good laugh. One time I got angry with a CSR rep on a website and I did say, “What about totally blind don’t you understand?” The woman apologized and I said, “It’s okay. You can still help me if you describe what you’re talking about.”

We do get too sensitive about things. And we need to be more up front with others. I don’t wave my blindness like a flag, but when they need to know, I tell them.

Shirley Tracy

From: Joseph Hudson
Sent: Saturday, March 6, 2021 2:44 PM
Subject: Re: Working with people at disability help desk

Hi Marianne, I also have to work with a website that is supposed to be a company that works for the blind and visually impaired individuals. However, whenever you speak with their customer service, it's almost like talking to somebody who knows nothing about blind people. Anytime I ask them a question it's like what color was the screen or what color are the lines or do you see a orange box? I'm trying to explain to them that I am blind is like talking to a rock.
On Mar 6, 2021, at 12:40 PM, Marianne Denning <> wrote:

I am totally 100% understanding when I am working with someone who knows nothing about blind people and how best to help us. I have a problem when someone works with a company who provides goods and services to blind people and asks me if there is a sighted person available. I am the market for these companies and their staff must know how to communicate with me in a nonvisual way. If that person can’t do it because they are new to their job they need to refer me to someone who can work with me.

From: <> On Behalf Of Brian Vogel
Sent: Saturday, March 6, 2021 12:40 PM
Subject: Re: Need Microsoft Disability phone number!

On Sat, Mar 6, 2021 at 12:25 PM, David Diamond wrote:
There has to be a meeting in the middle though.
Oh, absolutely! But that meeting in the middle, when you're the "exotic one" in a given situation, very often entails you educating the helper about certain things as they try to help you.

There was a time when I didn't know diddly-squat about any form of assistive technology. I learned based on the work I was doing and who I was doing it with. Had I not needed (or chosen) to do that work with the populations I've worked with I would have absolutely no reason to know anything about it. Every one of those populations are niche demographics. The phrase "mainstream support" carries many shadings to the "mainstream" part. If you are a part of any niche you had better disabuse yourself of the notion of "all things being equal, or even possibly ever being equal" with all possible haste. And that's not because of malign intent, but because the capitalist system we live under means that businesses exist to make money, and the idea of "spending more than we get back" exists and not wanting to do that is perfectly legitimate.

But even when I didn't know what I know now, I had occasion to work with a couple of folks who happened to be blind, and was able to assist them with technical problems. I knew I couldn't use visual terms such as, "click on the red X," but I could use the more generic, "Close the window," or, "Exit the program." I did, and should have been able to expect, that the exact how that was to be done would be known by the person being assisted. I no sooner knew ALT+F4 than subatomic physics.

Most support techs who want to be in the job will go as far as they possibly can if the other side is willing to meet in the middle. The relationship between a sighted, but AT clueless support tech, and a blind client need not be adversarial. When they give a visual instruction, which they will particularly before it sinks in that they can't, saying something like, "What is it that you're hoping will happen?," or, "What is it that you want me to accomplish?," will often get a response back that allows you to instantly know what you must do.

There will always be idiots out there, and I'm not trying to defend them. But it is every bit as much up to the blind client dealing with someone who does not know AT, and who is not remoted in to their machine so they can see what is going on (which, for obvious reasons, is how we with sight generally work), to help the person trying to help them when it comes to the AT side of things. It also helps to understand that many of the signt-centric instructions are part of a script. Far too many companies put the inexperienced on help lines and adamantly insist that they stick with the script, and when they don't know what they're doing, they have to. It's the people who've been doing this for a while, and like doing it, who often relish being able to "step outside the box" when the opportunity presents itself. Others, of course, will not, and if it quickly gets ugly then that's when the, "I wish to be put through to your supervisor," step gets taken, as many times as necessary and as many levels as necessary, to lodge a legitimate complaint.

Brian - Windows 10 Pro, 64-Bit, Version 20H2, Build 19042
One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
~ André Gide

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