September 2011 Issue  Volume 12  Number 9

Letters to the Editor

Be Wary of Cell Phone Insurance: Getting an Accessible Replacement Cell Phone can be Problematic

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

Not long ago, I accidentally fell off a dock into about 12 feet of water. Fortunately I had my life vest on, and with some assistance from a couple of fellows I was able to climb back up onto the dock, having incurred only a few scrapes and bruises. I tried to convince my neighbors that I was actually just noodling for catfish, but my powers of persuasion seem to be greatly lacking.

Anyway, the point of this letter is to share with you my experience with my cell phone insurance claim. Unfortunately, I had my Nokia 6682 in my pocket when I took the plunge off the dock, [and the phone was destroyed as a consequence]. I really liked that phone. It was fully accessible to me with the TALKS program loaded on it. While I was upset over losing the phone, I was initially consoled by the knowledge that it was insured. I had been paying $5 extra each month for the past several years to make sure the phone would be covered in case it was ever lost, stolen, or destroyed.

With that in mind, I immediately filed a claim with the insurance carrier to get a replacement phone. The lady I talked to on the phone about my claim was very friendly and courteous. I explained my situation, [including] that I was totally blind and needed an accessible phone. She indicated that getting a replacement phone would be absolutely no problem. Okay, that should have alerted me right there because when has anything with a big company been simple and easy and no problem?

She stated they would be sending me a refurbished Sony Ericsson phone. I was somewhat familiar with that phone and knew it was totally inaccessible to a blind user. At that point, I told her that I could not use that phone because it was totally inaccessible to me. She put me on hold for several minutes, probably conferring with the president of AT&T, or perhaps even the President of the United States on how they should proceed with a problem as monumental as providing a blind patron with an accessible cell phone. When she came back on the line, she informed me that the company would be sending me the Nokia 6350, which I should find to be quite accessible. I seriously doubted the validity of that assertion, but assuming she and the President knew something about that phone that I didn't, I told her that would be acceptable, providing it was, indeed, accessible.

Two days later, I received my new--well, my refurbished--Sony Ericsson. Yes, it was the Sony Ericsson, the very phone I told them I was certain was totally inaccessible to me or any other blind user. Needless to say, I immediately got on the phone, informing the fellow [who answered my call] this time what happened and that I was far less than happy about it. He apologized for the so-called misunderstanding and he assured me that he would take care of the problem. Hmm…another phone company representative telling me that they will take care of the problem. Where have I heard that before? He put me on hold and when he came back online he assured me that everything was taken care of, and that they would be sending me the fully accessible Nokia 6350. All I had to do is send back my damaged Nokia 6682 and the Sony Ericsson when the new--I mean refurbished--Nokia 6350 arrived.

Two days later, my cell phone was delivered. With excitement and great anticipation, I opened the box only to discover that they had sent me another totally inaccessible Sony Ericsson. I couldn't believe it. I sat there completely shocked. How could they possibly make the same mistake twice? At that point, I got really upset and substantially stepped up the level of my complaint behavior. I called back [and demanded] to speak to a supervisor. I was connected up with a lady who identified herself as the Supervisor of Complaint Resolutions. She pulled up my file on her computer, reviewed it, apologized, and once again, assured me that the Nokia 6350 would be shipped out to me. So, now, I have my original Nokia 6682 and two Sony Ericsson cell phones that I have to send back to the company, taking my time and at my inconvenience, all because of the phone company's series of errors. But wait!! There is even more to come!!

I finally received the promised refurbished Nokia 6350. Remember AT&T assured me repeatedly that they would take care of it, no problem, and the Nokia 6350 was an accessible phone? Well, it isn't! So, the bottom line, as the trite expression goes, is that I was sent three replacement phones--two Sony Ericssons and one Nokia 6350--all of which are not accessible. So, the insurance on which I paid premiums for the past several years, turned out to be a total waste of money.

I ended up going online and obtaining a Pantech Breeze II as an upgrade phone. The Pantech Breeze II has some speech built into the phone--though, strangely, the speech feature is never referred to in the user's manual. With sighted assistance and after going through a series of steps, it is possible to turn on speech that tells you what numbers and letters you are pressing and some menu levels, but the address book is not accessible, and the speech quality when reading the menus is quite poor. With my wife's assistance, I was able to put several contacts into my address book. The phone has excellent voice recognition, and so I am able to tell the phone to call a contact in my address book, and it works very well to do that…. However, I consider this Pantech Breeze II simply a temporary solution because I miss the total accessibility that I had with my Nokia 6682 with the TALKS program loaded on it.

Comment on This Article

So, just before sending this letter, I decided to "bite the learning-curve bullet," so to speak, and purchase an iPhone. I must say that it is, indeed, fully accessible. However, to call the iPhone a cell phone does not do it justice. It is a handheld computer that happens to have a cell phone feature. My initial reactions to the iPhone are, overall, very positive. However, there is definitely a steep learning curve, made somewhat more surmountable by the purchase of a little book titled Getting Started with the iPhone: An Introduction for Blind Users, written by Anna Dresner and Dean Martineau and published by the National Braille Press [reviewed in the June 2011 issue of AccessWorld].

Insurance is available for the iPhone, and unlike my experience described above concerning the Nokia phone, if you file an insurance claim against your iPhone insurance, it will be replaced with another iPhone. This means you will get another device that is fully accessible, and if you keep your iPhone backed up…you can put everything back on a new or different iPhone with minimal difficulty or loss.


Dr. Ronald E. Milliman

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