New Technology Enables Visually Impaired to Navigate Call Center Ops

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    When a technology company does well, more power to it. When it does good at the same time, it warrants our attention. So when TCN, a provider of cloud-based call center technology in St. George, Utah, announced that it was releasing technology that would help visually impaired people get jobs in call centers, my attention was immediately grabbed.

    On Tuesday, TCN announced the release of Platform 3 VocalVision, technology that enables visually impaired people to navigate TCN’s Platform 3.0 call center suite. The approach was to optimize the platform to be compatible with Job Access with Speech (JAWS), a popular screen reader that assists users whose vision impairment prevents them from seeing screen content or using a mouse.

    In an email interview, Terrel Bird, co-founder and CEO of TCN, explained the roots of the project.

    “It all started back in 2012 with a call center that had specific needs and several visually impaired staff members. This center struggled to find a solution that had the means to cater to its handicapped employees,” Bird said. “We switched gears and focused our attention and resources on building an interface and API for the JAWS application. That is how Platform 3.0 VocalVision came to be.”

    Bird said getting the JAWS software to recognize keys, buttons, and functions of the TCN platform was the greatest technology hurdle TCN faced in bringing VocalVision to market. “It is never an easy task to build a program specifically for the visually impaired,” he said, “especially in the call center world, where computers, CRMs, and customer data are needed on the fly.”

    What helped, Bird said, is that TCN’s technology is cloud-based, which allowed for low-cost development and rapid deployment. “The cloud-based nature of our technology has a number of benefits which aided the development of VocalVision,” he said, “including reduced overhead costs, the ability to hire remote agents, flexibility, increased security and productivity, and improved customer relationship management.” He said TCN plans to license the technology to third parties, including organizations affiliated with the National Institute for the blind, and various channel partners.

    I asked Bird what improvements we might expect to see in the next release of Platform 3 VocalVision, and when that might be.

    “We are currently in the process of looking at making additional improvements to Management Access and Reporting, specifically to help better meet the needs of the visually impaired agents,” Bird said. “These improvements are in development and will be released sometime in Q2 of 2015.”


    Prior to the release, TCN had made VocalVision available on a limited basis to several organizations, including Beyond Vision, a non-profit in Milwaukee that works to provide employment opportunities for people who are legally blind. In a statement, Jim Kerlin, president and CEO of Beyond Vision, said he had been impressed with the service.

    “They have been very willing to customize the solution to meet our employees’ accessibility needs, so our employees like the system and its ease of use,” Kerlin said. “It has enhanced the level of service we can offer our customers through its call recording and time reporting capabilities. In the future, we plan to use the system to measure and report productivity and utilization metrics, just as we do in our manufacturing environment.”

    A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.

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