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Novel use of app helps deaf Bermuda islanders communicate with help desks

Pypestream app solves a communications problem for Jennifer Fahnbulleh

Friday 21 July
Novel use of app helps deaf Bermuda islanders communicate with help desks

Editor - July 21 at 07:00

E-mail issues left Jennifer Fahnbulleh wanting to tear her hair out last summer. Deaf, she couldn’t call the company hotline, and her e-mails went ignored. “I think employees see the e-mails and think what is this, and just ignore them,” said Mrs Fahnbulleh. Fed up, she called the Regulatory Authority Bermuda, the organisation that oversees the telecommunications sector in Bermuda.
Mrs Fahnbulleh, the president of the Bermuda Islands Association of the Deaf (BIAD) believed Bermuda was falling behind the rest of the world in terms of protecting the rights of the disabled. She said in other countries not providing proper communications channels for the deaf and disabled was grounds for legal action. “You could sue,” she said. The Regulatory Authority came up with a novel solution, a new app called Pypestream.
The app, based in New York City, allows customers to text company help desks and is similar to WhatsApp. It wasn’t initially designed for the deaf, just people who preferred texting or e-mailing to a telephone conversation, but the Regulatory Authority thought it might help the deaf community in Bermuda. Mrs Fahnbulleh was hopeful. “It was technology that we could use for a lot of things that would make it easier for the deaf and those with disabilities, and also the general population,” she said. “In America you have a credit card and you can sign in online and you can check your information or talk to a live person, like a chat room or WhatsApp. “You can type. We don’t have those things here yet.” Pypestream sent one of its vice presidents, Humphrey Chen, to meet with around 20 members of the deaf community in Bermuda. It was an emotional meeting, with tears flowing as people told Mr Chen of their struggles. “The app wasn’t initially designed for the deaf, but because Bermuda is so small it’s a good place to test out how it works with this sector,” said Mr Chen.
Pypestream, working with local company Fireminds Technology Solutions, launched the app in Bermuda in April. So far four businesses have signed on to use it with their customers, One Communications, the Bermuda Hospitals Board, Ptix, and Belco. Helpdesk staff have received training to deal with Pypestream messages, so clients don’t have to wait days for a reply. The launch got off to a shaky start with some users getting back error messages when they tried to use it. It was also discovered that Blackberry users couldn’t use app. To cross this hurdle, Pypestream sent several iPads to Blackberry users so they could use Pypestream, which is free to download. Now Mrs Fahnbulleh says some members of BIAS have been able to get through to one of the companies using the system. “But this type of service is only for when we have billing problems,” she said. “It is not something we would be using on a daily basis.”
She said the launch was a start. “It is something we can build on,” she said. Pypestream was initially founded by South African Richard Smullen in April 2015. He came up with the app after being forced to suddenly change his airline tickets while travelling. He found he couldn’t quickly and easily contact anyone at the airline through his mobile phone, and had to get his sister at home to use her desktop computer. The Pypestream mobile app is available to download on iOS and Android in the App Store and Google Play.
Source:Royal Gazette

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