Guest blog – Experience of bad access when relying on telephony

This is a guest blog from Tony:

Right, this is the actual event of what has happened today (Monday 22nd August 2010) of my trip to the HMRC Office in Norwich which ended with almost bad experience for me.

I needed to make a claim on the HMRC website, but at the moment, it’s not available to do it online as the site says “These online services are still temporarily closed”.

And the website says that I can pick up the paperwork at either HMRC Enquiry Centre or Jobcentre Plus Office.

After looking up the address and mapping the route on Google Maps, I decided to go to the Jobcentre Plus Office as the office was the most closest to walk from work.

Lunchtime came, so I head over to Jobcentre Plus Office and asked one of the guy using paper & pen to see if they have the paperwork/pack. He said they do not have anything I needed and advised me to use the telephone service. It took him about 2 or 3 seconds before he realised I cannot do that. Then he went off & spoke to someone else. He came back and advised me to go to the HMRC Enquiry Centre. I thanked him for his help and left the building.

Walked over to the HMRC Enquiry Centre and was greeted by a member of staff. Again, using paper & pen, I asked for the paperwork/pack. Once again, she told me to use the telephone service. Only that she did not realise and I had to point out that I am deaf and cannot use it. All of sudden, she was a bit panicky, didn’t know what to say. She told me to wait while she went into the manager’s office to have a chat.

She came back and said that I could contact the office using textphone. I told her I did not have one at home or at work. Then she said I would have to make an appointment to see someone just to get the pack. Huh? She invited me to her desk and she looked at the calendar to try to find a free date for me. All different dates were offered, I’m busy on these dates.

During that time, the other member of staff led other people to the desk where I was sitting down and they looked fed up because we were communicating by paper & pen. I thought it were rude for the staff to put their customers next to me. Where’s my privacy?

At this time, the manager came over and they both discussed what other options are. They told me to come back in a few hours time and they can do an appointment for me on the same day. No I cannot was my reply, because I have to go back to work.

All I wanted to do is to collect the pack and go back to work. That’s all.

But no, I have to see someone just to get the pack. And that I need to show them 2 forms of ID – i.e. my driving licence and a passport. Nowhere on their website states that I need them to pick up the pack. Hum ho…

All of sudden, the manager/the lady (can’t remember who said first) said they have a textphone in one of their office that I could use to call HMRC to get the pack posted to me. What? After all of this faffing about which lasted 10 minutes or so, they say it now? Why not say that at the first place?

They told me to wait in the other room. On the corner of my eye, I can see them rushing around like headless chicken, trying to figure out how to get the textphone equipment to be set up & work. I guess they rarely take it out…

The manager asked for my NI number and I gave him my NI card. While waiting, it dawned on me… why did the staff ask me for 2 forms of IDs just to get the pack, when I can get the pack over the phone (or even online when it’s available) without them asking me for any forms of IDs? Do you see the flaw in this?

Anyway, after a while of wait, they lead me to the other room where there’s a textphone and a keyboard attached to it. She read the user guide carefully (it has words and picture showing what to do). She followed the guide but somehow the text phone did not work. She tried again but still not working.

I looked at the guide and found that she was doing it wrong. I pointed it out to her (the photo showed very clearly how, but she didn’t follow that). To her credit, she quickly corrected it and it worked this time.

It rang. It connected to Text Relay. Then it connected to the number that she dialled. It went through the options. I picked the option I wanted to use. And it put me on hold. Knowing what HMRC is like, I knew it will be a long hold. And we waited.

During that time, the manager kept coming back and checking up on us, seeing if we’ve made any progress with the phone call. But we were still on hold.

And holding…. holding…. holding… holding…. holding for a long time.

The manager came back for the final time and asked me some questions on paper and I answered his questions. He decided that the phone call is not needed. He asked for my DOB, my address and my employment details. I provided them to him.

And I got the pack.

Finally.

I was happy that I got the pack finally, but at the same time, I was thinking – why did I have to go through all of that? It has left me very tired, very frustrated and annoyed that I have wasted a lot of time doing that when it can be easily resolved right at the start. Overall, I think this has taken me about 50 minutes from the start to the finish.

I finally walked back to work and it was almost 2 hours (20 mins round walking trip) since I left for my lunch break when it could have been easily resolved within 30 – 40 minutes!

I feel I was lucky that I was able to do this as I was able to communicate with them via paper & pen & using English language, but what about other Deaf people who are very strong BSL and is unable to do a proper English structure to communicate with them – will they be able to do this and have the issue resolved like me? My honest answer – I don’t think so. I fear they will just say no and let them go on their way, which sadly does happen now and then.

Yes, they did provide me with a textphone, but please do it at the start without having for me to go through all of this faffing around. Their website also needs to be very clear that I need to bring some sort of other documents before I turn up.

To end this, I’d like to say a big thank you to the HMRC staff in Norwich (if you’re reading this) – to the manager and the lady who sat down with me when we were making the phone call. Thank you for understanding and for being patient with me.

Anyway, that’s my write up of my trip to the HMRC Office in Norwich and my experience with them.

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About Suzie

Mother, Wife, Teacher, Cook and Hearing dog owner. Passionate about Equality for deaf and deafblind people. Believes in communication for all and breaking down these barriers, real and perceived. Deafened.
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