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Comcast Now Offers Customer Service In ASL, A First For The Cable Industry

December 03, 2019

Today, on International Day of Disabled Persons, Comcast and Connect Direct launched ASL Now, a customer service support via American Sign Language for Internet Essentials, Xfinity Internet, and general Xfinity billing questions. Connect Direct as an ASL call center program that is engined by the Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD). Through ASL Now, Internet Essentials and Xfinity customers with hearing loss can now connect with customer service agents in their native language, ASL – the fourth most-studied language in the United States.

For the first time in the cable industry, ASL will be a language option for customer service. The new feature will further bridge the digital divide for Americans with disabilities by ensuring that members of the deaf community can get connected to the internet at home without barriers.

“The internet is an incredible resource so long as you have the skills and the tools to use it,” said David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Comcast Corporation. “By partnering with Connect Direct and working with the deaf community, we want to address and break down the barriers to broadband adoption that are unique to this population. That starts by being able to speak with customers in their native language.”

The announcement was made at a digital inclusion rally at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf to celebrate Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which is the nation’s largest, most comprehensive, and most successful Internet adoption program for low-income households. The launch of ASL Comcast customer support is a continuation of Comcast’s commitment to the disability community.

Since 2011, the Internet Essentials program has connected more than eight million low-income Americans to the internet at home. This number includes nearly 290,000 in Philadelphia, 90 percent of whom were not connected to the Internet at home until they signed up through Internet Essentials.

Internet Essentials has an integrated, wrap-around design that addresses each of the three significant barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified. These include a lack of digital literacy skills, lack of awareness of the relevance of the Internet to everyday life needs, and fear of the Internet; the absence of a computer; and the cost of internet service. The program is a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners.

“We are especially happy to partner with Comcast on this initiative, which represents a significant leap forward in broadening the reach of services available in ASL and creating more avenues for fuller participation of deaf people in society,” said Christopher Soukup, chief executive officer of CSD. “Comcast’s commitment to launching an ASL customer service center underlines a shift in attitude by major corporations in recognizing the value of deaf people and the benefit and ease in delivering exceptional customer service through their customers’ language of choice.”

Comcast also announced today that it created an Internet Essentials accessibility landing page, with direct links to the new ASL Now chat function, the ability to order collateral materials in Braille and large print, and an accessibility-specific FAQ. Additionally, the Learning Center on the Internet Essentials website now includes nearly 50 Internet safety and digital literacy videos with closed captions for the deaf. Topics include online safety and security, essential uses of the Internet and how to get various things done online. The website is also operable with assistive technologies, such as screen reader software, for the blind or visually impaired.

Earlier this year, Comcast announced a partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities and, working together, the two organizations will continue to add even more digital literacy training content to the Learning Portal that will specifically cater to people with disabilities.

Source: Forbes