ON HAND: CAs who can’t type

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

Last week, I called my grandmother via Internet relay. We usually IM or e-mail, but because her computer is broken we’ve had to resort to the relay. I hate using relay with her, because her personality seems to change with every Communication Assistant (CA). She oftentimes seems rude, when in reality it’s the way her words are being typed.

I was calling her because I have an uncle who just got diagnosed with lung cancer. He’s 86, although robust and youthful, and treatment options are limited. The hospital had to do further tests to see if he also had cancer in the kidney area–which would dramatically reduce his chances of recovery, if any.

So I made the call. CA #8130 opened with, “gekkixxx gehkxxx gehhxxx hello (female) ga.” I asked Grandmother how the tests went, and the operator typed, “I have some good news…” At this point, there was a long pause without anything showing on the screen. I felt a sense of relief, knowing that the news was that Uncle Harry didn’t have cancer and would live. I watched as the words burst on my screen, “…your uncle has kidney cancer.”

Good news?! I asked Grandmother how she could say that. Turns out the operator left out two words: “Not so good news . . .”

That’s one of the worst mistakes I’ve ever seen a CA make. The CA could’ve quickly corrected herself or at least apologized to me. She did nothing of the kind–and even hung up as soon as my grandmother hung up, instead of asking if I wanted to make another call. To top that off, the entire conversation was fraught with uncorrected typos.

I filed a complaint. Although the provider responded right away with apologies, I wasn’t satisfied. Why, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because more than 10 years after the ADA, I’m still putting up with shoddy typing. I realize that it’s difficult to find qualified people to work as relay operators and that oftentimes other factors come into play (i.e. accents, speed of speaking). I just don’t understand why this particular CA couldn’t have at least shown some dignity by fixing her errors.

Mavis Beacon Typing Lessons, anyone?

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