Australia’s leading vision disability organisation Vision Australia has firmly told developers and vendors of contact centre operations systems they need to get their act together on the accessibility front after the organisation revamped its own Agent Desktop to be low vision friendly.
It's a call on behalf of thousands of vision-impaired people still fighting to claim a place in the Australian workforce by making a positive economic contribution by using accessible software at work, a niche that should be coming along in strides but is still struggling.
On Monday, Vision Australia deployed a low-vision friendly contact centre solution for its own business to give its visually-impaired agents access to the same business tools as their sighted coworkers for the first time.
And while it's leading by example, it's a lead it would probably prefer it did not have to take if wider industry stepped-up.
To put things in context, customer contact and call-centre jobs have for almost a century been a go-to job for vision impaired people because they can do it remarkably well if given some simple resources. The same goes for audio transcribers.
For the most part, the blind are very good listeners.
But as each turn in technical evolution comes around the corner, the same fight for vision impaired people to be dealt into the game so they can keep and get jobs repeats itself.
So when Vision Australia upgraded its own contact centre system, it made a point of name-dropping the vendors.
Developed in collaboration with VoiceFoundry and Amazon, the upgrade of Vision Australia's nine-year-old contact centre software to a cloud-based system will now allow the organisation to decentralise and streamline processes for staff, it says.
National contact centre manager at Vision Australia, Matthew Staniforth, told iTnews the organisation has long-struggled with inequitable legacy systems and a market lacking in accessibility options.
As well as being a roadblock to hiring blind staff, ineffective systems were a productivity drain for the vision-impaired agents.
Low-vision agents were closely involved in developing the new platform, Amazon Connect Agent Desktop, to make sure it was fit for purpose, especially since traditional user interface design concepts and aesthetics no longer applied.
The Accessible Agent Desktop is integrated with Amazon’s Contact Control Panel, which has the ability to interface with Job Access with Speech (JAWS) screen reading technology.
It also features screen magnification capabilities, shortcuts, and interfaces to Salesforce and Active Directory to manage operations on clients’ accounts.
Client information from those databases will now be read aloud to agents as a call comes in, saving the agent from having to locate and search through each database separately in order to handle an operation.
Decentralisation was also a key consideration for Staniforth, as the journey from home to work can be a significant obstacle for the vision impaired to overcome.
“Our aim in the contact centre is to have tools that will enable us to employ the best person for the role. This should be without regard to their ability to be able to commute to one of our sites within Australia or their level of sight,” Staniforth said.
“The only way for us to achieve this is to have accessible agent and supervisor workspaces, that can be accessed remotely and securely.
“Now this lets them all be on the same page.”
VoiceFoundry has said it is working on making the accessibility features a regular feature of its contact centre systems.