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Friday, February 24, 2017

NEW! Amazon's Disability Customer Service Line!


Introduction


Within the past year, we posted about Apple's Accessibility Hotline and Microsoft's Accessibility Answer Desk. Earlier in 2017, I discovered a new accessibility resource, seemingly by accident.

I wanted to work to improve my skills with Safari on a Mac and decided that working with a familiar site would be beneficial. I pulled up www.amazon.com and heard something quite unusual.

If you use the Amazon site on a computer, you probably know about the screen reader optimized site and have already read the message that says, in part, “We have recently updated the screen reader optimized website to include headings, landmarks, and new shopping features to improve your experience. Please follow this link …”. When I pulled up Amazon’s site on this particular evening using VoiceOver, I read a different message, a new link located right after the “Help” link if you are not signed in and right after the “My account” link if you are.

Disability Customer Support Line


What was this new link? It reads: “Click to call our Disability Customer Support Line, or reach us directly at 1-888-283-1678. Immediately I checked Amazon with my Windows PC running JAWS for Windows and received the same message. After calling Amazon’s regular customer service line, I discovered that typically sighted individuals did not see this message; Amazon’s site detected that I was using a screen reader and, as a result, displayed this message and link.

Purpose of the Disability Line


My next task, of course, was to find out what this line’s purpose was, what the agents could and could not do, etc. Thanks to Amazon’s Public Relations department who gathered information from the Accessibility Team, we know the following basic information about the line:

In January, Amazon launched a dedicated customer service line for customers with disabilities. The hours of operation are 3:00am - 10pm PST, 7 days a week, and the dedicated agents can be reached by either following the click-to-call link on the Amazon.com Desktop site or by calling 1-888-283-1678. The agents have been trained in screen reader basics and can help support (or escalate, if needed) technical issues. Agents can also help customers find products, add items to a customer’s shopping cart and support the check-out process. Agents are not able to place orders on behalf of the customers.

I inquired as to whether or not agents could assist with things like setting up a new Kindle or Echo for a customer who is blind and visually impaired. While the line is not set up specifically to do this, these agents may be able to answer basic questions about these devices. If the question is too technical in nature, the agent will transfer you to the specific department for that device.

What Happens When I Call?


The start of the process is exactly like the process you would encounter if you called Amazon’s typical customer service; you provide your name, email, and sometimes your mailing address to verify your account. With this information, agents can confirm details about your account, check the status of an order, assist with returning an item, etc. In short, the disability line works with you to accomplish all tasks the typical line’s agents can do while working with you to resolve problems you may have as a screen reader user.

For instance, you want to purchase shampoo. You know what you want but cannot tell which item is the correct one. The description may be unclear and may not describe the amount of shampoo in the bottle, how many bottles you are purchasing, etc.

Perhaps you are looking at an article of clothing, but you are having problems choosing the correct size and color. Maybe you want to buy an appliance and find it problematic to compare similar items. As is typical with many websites, the interface changes, sometimes causing you to be unable to find the “Add to cart” button. In each of these instances, the dedicated disability customer service line is quite useful. Once you determine which item(s) you want to buy, the agent can add them to your cart. Then, at your convenience, you can return to the site or pull up the app and complete the transaction. If you purchase an Amazon device, agents, themselves may be able to help you set it up, show you how to turn on accessibility features, or answer basic questions about the device. If they cannot do this, they will route you to the department corresponding to the correct device so you can get your problems solved and questions answered.

Limitations


As we said, agents cannot place orders for you. They can explain to you how to make the purchase but cannot hit the “Place Order Button” for you. You only find the link explaining the line when on the desktop site on a computer. Users of the app or anyone navigating the site on a phone or tablet will not find the link. Agents can, however, explain features of the app and assist you in navigating it. You may, in fact, take advantage of the disability services line no matter how you access Amazon’s site.

Also, as is true of typical customer service agents, they may not be able to answer all questions about Amazon devices; an agent may have to transfer you to the department that specializes in a particular device for you to get an answer to your question.

We trust that this information will assist you.

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