My AT&T Adventures

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This week has been one of change for my family and I with regard to our home network, telephone and television.  We decided to try AT&T’s U-verse service, which combines all of those products into one package.  The technician was at our home installing everything for about 5 hours.  Honestly, when the TV, phone and internet were out, I felt like we had literally lost power.  What a relief it was when things turned on and bit by bit restored to life.

The internet came on with no problem, other than our speed decreased slightly from what we had with DSL.  I also had to have my outgoing e-mail port unblocked in order to send messages from my business e-mail address.  The telephone worked right away, though we are having a little issue with our talking caller id which may or may not be able to work.  I started a list of questions that I would call and ask either tech support or customer service about, and the adventure was on.

The real fun for me came with the television, learning new channel numbers, remote buttons, etc.  The first thing I did was look for a channel guide on line, since I am of course unable to use the on-screen information.  I tend to try and memorize my favorite channels and all of the numbers had changed.  Once I had that information, I wanted to see if I could find an accessible on-line program guide, so that I could see what was on when.  The first one I found was very inaccessible, it was not in a table format and there was no way for me to see which shows corresponded to each channel.  I put this on my list of things to call and ask about.

One of the major reasons for our decision to go uverse is the ability to record shows and watch them on any television in the house.  I like to record shows for my daughter from PBS or Disney, but I don’t usually want to watch them over and over the way she does.  Now, they can be recorded and she can watch them in the play room while I work or watch something more entertaining.  The other great option is that I can actually program my cable box to record shows using my computer.  Now I don’t have to depend on my husband or other sighted help to record the shows I want.  I can also manage my recordings on-line, delete shows and see what has been recorded.  The main site to accomplish this is somewhat accessible, but I find that using the mobile version is faster, more compact and easier to navigate.

One really nice option that my husband found was the ability to put some sound to menu using.  Unfortunately, the options will not talk, but you can make it so that as you arrow around, you hear a sound.  This allows me to count arrows in any direction and try to choose options that way.  I have not yet found an accessible manual that will take you through step by step how to do things with the menu, but perhaps something could be written for a blind user, incorporating the number of sounds and arrows up, down, left or right.

Another important question I had was regarding the SAP or Secondary Audio Programming channel.  It is through this audio channel that audio described television is provided when available.  For now, there is a limited number of programs offered in the U.S with this feature, but many shows on PBS do have descriptions.  I had to find out first, if this channel was available on U-verse, and second, how to turn it on and off.  I put that on my list of questions and decided it was time to make the call and see what answers I could get.

I called the main number and muddled through the voice automated system and first found myself and customer care.  I explained that I was new to U-verse, I am blind and had some questions about accessibility.  I then had to explain what I meant by accessibility, that I am totally blind and have no vision whatsoever and that I enjoy watching TV even though I cannot see it.  I really stumped them when I asked about their website, and where I could go to find usable content that does not require me to scroll around with the mouse.  My call was transferred.

I found myself talking to a very nice lady in tech support.  I started from the beginning and I could tell that she too was not sure what to say or do.  She was very courteous and was able to help me with my question about the SAP channel, after a lot of time consulting manuals and probably coworkers.  She explained to me how to access the channel, even told me the exact location of the buttons on the remote control and number of arrows to the right I would go in order to turn it on and off.  She said they have it listed as the Spanish channel, but that same audio channel is used for descriptions as well.  I’m not sure she really understood as I explained what audio described television was, but perhaps it gave her something to talk about with her friends at work.  She was not sure how to help me with regard to the website, so again, I was transferred.

A very nice gentleman was my next victim, I think he was in web support.  I told him what I was looking for and he gave me a few options to try for places to find channel line-ups and guides.  He even waited as I explored them to see if indeed they were accessible to me.  I found one, the U-connect site,  that was in table format and worked very well.  I could see show times and channels by using simple table navigation commands in Jaws.  He was also the one that unblocked my e-mail SMTP port.  He tried to help me with the talking caller id issue, but I am still not sure there will be a solution to that one.  He was very nice and somewhat curious about just what a blind person liked to watch.  I don’t think he had ever known or spoken to someone who couldn’t see, so perhaps he left with new knowledge and something to chat about with his coworkers too.

So after reading all of this, you are probably wondering, is it worthwhile to switch to U-verse if you have the option.  Well, give me some more time and playing with it and then ask that question.  I will say that everyone I talked to, no matter how unsure or stumped by my questions and issues, was very respectful and really tried to help.  I think that as big as AT&T is, they definitely need to have an accessibility department, or a go to guy for questions related to customers with disabilities.  Maybe some of my readers here would know how to put a bug in their ear so to speak and get something in place?  If any of you out there are using AT&T, I would love to hear your experiences with various products and services they offer.  Overall, I think we made a good decision in switching, but as with any change of this kind, it takes a lot of time and effort to learn how it all works.

6 thoughts on “My AT&T Adventures”

  1. Well at least it appears they spoke english. *So* much more than I can say for so many of these service providers. & at least they didn’t feel they needed to read from a script. 2nd sentence again applies. Abbapita.

  2. Perhaps writing the president of the company with your thoughts and ideas would help to spark something. Being blind myself I’ve noticed that so long as you send it registered mail if not overnight mail most corporations will make an effort to at least respond to you. Good luck with your new service!

  3. I am glad you had a good experience with AT&T! In my experience, AT&T support is hit-or-miss. I have spoken to a couple extremely helpful tech support agents but many of them have been completely incompetent. I have had tech and customer support agents hang up on me because the call has gone on too long, transfer me in circles, etc. But I also had an AT&T technician spend an hour at my house trouble shooting bad wiring. So I suppose it depends on who you end up talking to or working with at AT&T!

  4. Hi Des,
    I saw your posting on your blog about this and wanted you to know we have
    AT&t also. Recently we had our dish re-mounted as we had our roof replaced.
    As a result of that, I got a survey call asking how comfortable I felt using
    Dish Network. I told them I found turning the channels fine but the other
    stuff was in accessible for a blind person to use. I told them about a
    Zenith talking VCR that I have where the menus talk so I can record shows.
    Of course, I don’t know if it will work since they made the big switch to
    DTV. Anyway they got five minutes worth of my opinion. I told them if they
    would give users an option to have talking menus and talking TV. guides it
    would be wonderful. I told them just think, the cable companies that I know
    of don’t have accessibility for the blind nor does Direct TV. So if they
    did it they could be the first to say they did it and make themselves look
    good. The person said she wrote it all down so Who knows if it will work.
    Will you please keep your blog up dated?
    Was it hard to get the SAP channels to work?
    Does it only work on PBS?

    Connie

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments… keep them coming! I definitely got lucky and talked to some agents that tried their best to find answers for me. I like the idea of writing to the company president, any idea to find out who they are and where to send a letter of this type? As to Connie’s question, the SAP channel is very easy to activate and turn off with u-verse, once I knew which buttons to press and how many arrows right it was. I can very easily turn it on and off. I look forward to more comments from everyone. Thanks again!!

  6. I really enjoyed reading all the details about your adventures, what is accessible and inaccessible, as well as the types of customer support communications that shape your impressions of U-verse and AT&T. I learned a lot and truly appreciate that you shared your experiences!

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