Friday, July 24, 2015

Deaf Communication Choices in Hospitals

Imagine this:

You are pregnant. You know what it is like to give birth. You are deaf. You ask hospital in advance for a live on site interpreter for the birth. Hospital says no. You sue. You lose because hospital convinces a magistrate that video remote interpreting (VRI) is good enough.

Despite reports in news that they will give you a live interpreter when the birth happens you are forced to have VRI. AND the VRI fails as you are giving birth!

You are having surgery. Then at an important time before surgery, in recovery, or in the hospital room, VRI fails.

You are in the emergency room. Right when it's needed the most, like during treatment or post-treatment instructions and discharge, VRI fails.

There is no backup and the hospital refuses to call for a live interpreter. All attempts at getting the medical people to write are failing.

Just how unacceptable are these scenarios/situations?

According to the National Association of the Deaf position statement on VRI, "If a deaf person uses sign language, hospitals should provide a qualified sign language interpreter..."

Seems there's no consensus in the courts about what "effective communication" actually means.

There's a petition going around related to the case mentioned above:

Bethesda Hospital East: Apologize to Margaret Weiss and Respect Deaf Patients' Needs!

Use this hashtag in social media and Twitter! #DeafChoice

Friday, May 22, 2015

Uber Isn't A Public Transportation Service?

First it was NYC with too few accessible taxis, then the mayor claiming that the taxis were a hazard, and now this...

Uber, Lyft, and other similar ride-sharing organizations, are claiming that disability laws do not apply to them.

Uber: Disability Laws Don’t Apply to Us

Say what? What are these guys smoking? Can I have some?

Uber IS a transportation service, not a "technology" company, because it's similar to a car service and taxis. All of them use a vehicle to take a passenger to a requested destination. Denying those with disabilities, or separating them from the non-disabled crowd, is still discrimination. Maybe they'd be a "technology" company if they used a teleporter, but no such luck.

No matter what, Uber's UberWAV and UberASSIST programs should be like how other taxi companies are set up, with the vehicles being used for disabled and not, and treated the same way without being charged too much more.

Want to know something else? Uber's also flooding the job boards with listings that say something like these:

"[job title] - Need to Earn More Money? Join UberX as a Driving Partner Today!"
"Having Trouble Getting A [job name/title/type] Job? Have A Flexible Schedule As An UberX Driving Partner Instead!"
"Entry Level Job Not Paying The Bills? Join UberX & Have a Flexible Schedule Driving Your Own Car."
"Make up to $xxx this Weekend in fares Driving Your Car. Join Uber Now!"

Personally, I'd avoid them til they clean up their act.

Monday, May 18, 2015

What Purple Should Have Done With The Relay

As I've said before in a previous blog post, there were things that Purple could have done that would have been easily programmed. Before I continue, those who ported their numbers to Sprint had to present a drivers license or another form of ID with their address on it including something like a utility bill. I will bring this up again soon.

Over time, I was wondering and thinking about how Purple could have better done their internal protections against the abuse that was being done. To refresh everyone's memories:

Here's Why Purple's in Deep DooDoo!
FCC Did Not Require Monitoring of IP-Relay Calls

What could Purple have done? Plenty! Their non-action led to the death of their IPRelay services, to them discontinuing it, over the FCC's responses. Think of what Sprint did in order to port our numbers over. Here's what Purple could easily have done. I'll be making reference to an "abused number," which would be a number that was used to place fraudulent calls. Four things they could have done:

1. The abused number would be deactivated and not reactivated until the owner would present some form of ID.

Our relay numbers are basically accounts with Purple. Unfortunately, the way Purple set things up, they shot themselves in the feet with a cannon by not requiring some form(s) of ID like Sprint did.

2. The new number would not be activated until owner would present ID.

Some accounts out there are not activated or given full access until a second action is done, like receiving an email with a URL which validates the new account to a degree. Others go further by requiring that plus ID. This is how Sprint protected themselves against the ongoing abuse from moving to their systems.

3. A database of IPs with "associated numbers" or numbers that were most often associated with that IP with notes.

Many help desks and customer service have "notes" which are associated with the customer's account. In this case, the frequently-abused numbers would be entered into a database together with the IPs that were associated with the incoming calls. This way, if a new number was created that was replacing the disabled one, this was a way to help the service keep on top of things. The only issue with this is that IPs can be spoofed but a good searchable database will still give some usable results.

4. Giving the operators more power.

This was probably THE most biggest complaint of all operators, not having enough power to stop or prevent the calls. Help desks and customer service had more power than this. There were forums and websites that talked about this including some Facebook posts.

So, Purple, can you do it?

We need our AIM relay back! The web interface isn't doing the job right.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Live Long and Prosper - Spock

Up to his passing, Leonard Nimoy had a longing for knowledge and learning, which he included into his Star Trek character Spock. It was fun at times to watch Dr. McCoy and him clash, calling him a "green-blooded Vulcan," with his classic eyebrow raise. That Vulcan salute and quote "Live long and prosper" has become ingrained in all of us.

Star Trek has always had something going for all of us, even those who barely watched the series, if at all. It aroused interest in the stars and science out there, even getting people to clamor for their own versions of devices seen on the series. From the communicators, we got cellphones. From the padds we saw Captain Kirk write on, we got tablets. From warp speed, we get the wanderlust of wanting to go further out in the stars without it taking so long. From the transporter, we want to spend a longer vacation without the time it takes to get there. From the phasers, come laser pointers and various uses of lasers in the military and commercial/private sectors.

From the Enterprise, both starship and space shuttle, we want to be able to go where no one's gone before.

Two of the best quotes from his character Spock can be found in two Star Trek movies.

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in the reactor scene after he saves the ship, his final words to Kirk were "I have been, and always shall be, your friend." He says it again at the end of Star Trek III: Search for Spock after the ceremony, "I have been and always ever shall be your friend."

Powerful stuff. Classic scenes and excellent quotes. Brought many a tear inside and out of theaters. Star Trek's not going to be the same without him, McCoy, or Scotty.

His final tweet on Monday - "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory."

His place is in the stars somewhere on a Genesis planet.

Live long and prosper.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Case for AIM Relay - Part 2

Many of us have had our personal relay numbers switched or ported to Sprint IP Relay. Their procedure was more strict than Purple's was, in terms of our having to provide some forms of ID to prove who we are. Why couldn't Purple make more of an effort to reduce the fraud calls? It would have been a much more simpler effort to do.

When I mentioned the medical part of using my number in my previous post, this was a very serious use after a very serious major surgery. Suppose trouble happened to me post-surgery? Say something like a doctor needing to contact me and quickly about some health-related issue from the surgery and couldn't, thus possibly leading to more serious things happening? Or maybe I had another infection. I could easily have come down legally on Purple, with them being legally responsible for what happened to me due to their behavior and actions.

Sprint IP Relay is web-based as we all know. In most cases, that's not a problem. Calls can be made and received on it and the font size and colors can be changed, which is great for those with vision issues. But, there's another issue in terms of incoming calls. Unless you're actually watching the page, it's VERY EASY to miss a call.

In my case, I have missed EVERY SINGLE INCOMING CALL, except for one. There is no blinking window like many instant messengers have. Every web browser I've seen doesn't flash the page. All it does on that page is darken it and show an incoming call popup that's not very noticeable. Very easy to miss if you're in another window. That plus how many other calls were received before this one?

Yet it would be easy enough for them to create a popup window that would display as an alert in front of everything else displayed to the user. So why haven't they done this?

Jobsearchers and medical are possibly missing out on important calls. It gets worse if the caller just hangs up without leaving a message. I'm not the only one who may be missing calls. It may result in employers just calling the next person on their list, and that next person may get the job instead of me because I couldn't answer quickly enough! This is what hurts our jobsearch abilities.

It's not enough to be the "only game in town." It's too easy for that provider to just stop services. Fortunately, TDI and the FCC are working towards getting more text relay service providers.

Again, shame on you, Poople, for your actions.

FCC;s current list of Internet-based TRS Providers

Update 3-10-2014:

I had a recruiter call me earlier. He said

"I tried calling your phone but it directed me to a dispatch center."

Then a bit of time later, I got another call from someone else, saying that they weren't sure if they reached me. But of course, no wonder there's so much confusion due to Sprint's answering announcement.

"Sprint IP Relay operator XXXX one moment while I connect your call"

Poople had a customizable answering announcement which allowed you to put your name in there.

So, in short, Sprint Relay is screwing us over in two ways... The first is the difficult if not impossible to catch incoming calls and the answering announcement.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Looking back on 2014

This was a much better year than 2013, which was a rather stressful year. Graduating was the high point.

2014 led to many more improvements. I was finally able to get started with jobsearches in mid-January. A few interviews came up including one gov't interview. With this gov't interview which was 3 weeks after the surgery on the right hip, even though I asked for an interpreter, I didn't get one. Still wasn't quite the same even though all the questions posed me were on paper. But when the interpreter coordinator heard about it, she passed it on to a couple other people. From what I last heard, up pretty high. It was about 3 weeks later that I had a second chance at interviewing with them, and made the best of it.

I had an internship with Sprint from June to August, right after I went from walker to cane. Though I used the wheelchair to get to and from my workspace, I used the cane at times to get to a meeting room or someone's cubicle. That impressed my two supervisors and it showed on my final performance appraisal. I managed also to improve one of their badly-written documents by updating it with better descriptions and screenshots.

But it was also the entertainment industry where we lost a number of well-known people.

Perhaps our biggest loss was Robin Williams, what with his madcap style of comedy. We knew him from Mork and Mindy, and I believe it was his oddball audition performance that got him the part. Probably one of his best quotes, and he's right...

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."

And probably one of his best - "O Captain! My Captain!" and "Seize the day!" from Dead Poet's Society.

Thank you, Robin, for being around.

2015 should be a better year for me, health-wise and my jobsearches.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Surgery and the Hips - Part 10

At the recent surgeon appointment, the surgeon said I was clear of all restrictions and that it looked like I had no infection. Just having no infection was a big Christmas gift for just about everyone, considering how it was last year with the infection and antibiotic spacer.

I'm getting back to swimming soon, which will help me in the transition from walker to cane. With home PT, I went from one lap to four, and should be able to get to more with swimming. I also should be going from in-home PT to outpatient, returning to the same place after the left hip's final surgery. Around the beginning of the new year, I'm going from twice a week in-home PT to three times a week outpatient. This should be interesting.

I also had this job interview a week before the appointment, and the only way I could get there was to drive. Since I couldn't find anyone to drive me there due to it being short notice, I had to drive myself against doc's orders to not drive. Fortunately, it wasn't too bad a drive, and I had just a little pain.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

No Utility Bill? Sprint IP Says NO!

Just got this comment on the previous post The End of Text IP-Relay Services? Say It Ain't So...

Sprint IP is denying services to consumers who live in group homes. Sprint IP requires government ID plus "utility bill with the same name and address on it as the ID". This means persons living in situations where their OWN name does not happen to be on the bills are being denied their right to equal access!!

Sprint IP has not been willing to accept other types of proof of residency as part of verification (i.e. medical bill w/name and address, credit card or bank statement with name and address, notarized letter, etc.)

Sprint IP is also unwilling to allow consumers to communicate via email directly with anyone other than a low-level customer representative at a generic email address. They will not give out name or email of a "supervisor" who can answer questions with more than a "we will have to get back to you on that." Instead, they tell you to CALL. Duh. Without IP relay, I cannot call! Isn't that my point?

Has anyone had the same issue? If so, what did you do to resolve it?

Time to complain to the FCC via the ECFS.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Surgery and the Hips - Part 9

I've made some big milestones since my last post back in July with Part 8.

I continued to do swimming and water walking in the local community pool until it closed, then went on to the local rec center which had a hot tub/spa. I kept on going until my next surgery which was November 3, this time on the right hip, right as I predicted back in Part 5.

I started the process for surgery in September, and was cleared for surgery at the presurgical appointment three weeks beforehand. Fortunately, this time, I wasn't in that much pain, but my walking was beginning to go downhill again. The surgeon and I agreed on using the lateral procedure rather than anterior in the interest of avoiding infection.

I finished my internship with Sprint about the first or second week of August. The money was used to pay off the previous bill from the nursing home and a student loan with just a little left to carry over to pay for the next surgery bills. It was a rather educational internship and I met up with three other deaf who also worked within the same campus, but a different building. Two of them were former classmates back at NTID. One person I worked with Sprint knew some sign and was a supervisor, so we talked here and there when we could.

Come the date of surgery, there wasn't a lot of pain, just a lot of improvements. The same nurses and physical therapists from the previous surgery last year were there and it was nice to talk with them at times. For physical therapy, the first few days, I wasn't able to go too far. But with the last day, I was able to make it all the way from my room to the PT room, stopping twice. Right when PT ended, Jamie and our neighbor friend showed up and we all talked a bit before heading back to my room. Then we had checkout and left. Doc's orders were to not drive until cleared, and a few other things related to post-hip surgery including some prescriptions, one being for oxycodone. Strong stuff, but not as strong as the dilaudid I've had before. That was an interesting experience. I had percocet during PT after the spacer surgery and after this surgery.

But it was dealing with Purple's discontinuance of their IP-Relay service (1 / 2 / 3 / 4) that's caused the most problems. This is the most critical time in terms of recovery and communications with doctors, and I'm left without it (Why IP-Relay is Important to Me Personally). I was dealing with the news a day after surgery via my phone and a laptop via wireless in between visits with the doctors, nurses, and PT. This was NOT the thing I wanted to deal with during my recovery period. Fortunately, I was able to change my phone number to the one I use with my Sorenson VP. Shame on you, Poople. Tell the truth to the FCC, please.

With the first home PT appointment, I was only able to do one "lap." Two weeks later, with Jamie watching when she was off work that day, I did seven laps. Later on, I was able to do eight. This means that my swimming and water walking helped out quite a bit. The nurse checked the incision area when she visited, and so far, everything's looked good. The incision area measured was 30 centimeters or 12 inches, using 43 staples. They were removed two weeks after surgery. Jamie wanted to watch the removal since she missed the last three. It wasn't too painful, just had a few areas that were sensitive.

I'm still on the walker, but could be using a cane maybe within the next month. I'm still a little too unsteady to use it. I did manage to do a slow lap with the PT helping out.

I've got an upcoming post-surgery appointment with the surgeon soon. So far, no sign of infection. Jamie and I have been changing the tegaderm coverings of the incision area every 1-2 days. This means that if I go this far without an infection, this will be a big milestone for me and an even bigger Christmas gift for her.

Monday, November 17, 2014

FCC Did Not Require Monitoring of IP-Relay Calls

Last week, perhaps in response to the uproar over Purple's announcement of ending its IP-Relay service, Purple had posted on Facebook selected snippets from a letter. The letter was blurred, making it impossible to read the full letter - even the date was not readable. However, since the October 15 letter from Purple's lawyer to the FCC informing the FCC that Purple would stop its IP-Relay service on November 14 refers to an October 2 letter from the fund administrator Rolka Loube to Purple, we have reason to believe that the snippets were from that letter. Unfortunately, the Facebook posting that Purple made to with the snippets, is now gone.

However, we found a copy of what could be the letter on our own hard drives.

Fortunately, Jamie had earlier typed up the snippets for easier sharing on Facebook, and now we share those snippets here along with analysis and commentary. We decided to share this here because we are still seeing comments in the deaf community that the FCC should not be requiring monitoring. The FCC itself has refuted that claim as seen in the letter dated November 17 from Chairman Tom Wheeler below, courtesy of  Andrew Phillips of the National Association of the Deaf.

This clearly says that they did NOT ask Purple to monitor call content.

Purple's choice of snippets was intended to bolster its argument that the FCC was gong to require monitoring per the transcript of Purple's video at "To be reimbursed for IP Relay services, the FCC has informed Purple that we must monitor call content and details." However, upon close and careful reading, the snippets actually prove the opposite!

RolkaLoube ("RL") the Administrator of the interstate TRS Fund, was directed by the FCC to withhold 100% of Purple's IP Relay payment for July 2014, which had been scheduled for distribution in September 2014, until further notice and the FCC advised RL that an explanation and questions will be provided.

Based on an RL review of the submission and observations shared with RL by Commission staff, including observations from the Commission's site inspection of Purple's operations in the Philippines during July 2014 and subsequent analysis of Purple's IP Relay call

Yes, the FCC was so concerned about possible fraud that they actually flew FCC staff to the Philippines where Purple's call center was, to see for themselves what was going on. Until we saw that snippet, we did not know that our IP-relay calls were being handled by CAs in the Philippines.

Specific findings that we warrant withholding include:

3. During the site inspection, Commission staff witnessed numerous calls in which the caller attempted and failed to gain access to bank accounts. Subsequent review of the call detail records found numerous attempts by individual callers to hundreds of banks. We find these facts to be indicia of fraud and potential violation of rules;

So the FCC staff actually saw calls come in from people trying to access banks - and not just a few banks! Multiple attempts by individual callers to hundreds of banks? If that isn't a red flag signalling fraud, we don't know what is.

4. Similarly calls were witnessed by FCC staff in which the caller attempted to order large quantities of specific goods from department stores. Subsequent call detail record review disclosed a high number of back-to-back calls by individual callers to many department stores from individual callers;

Here again, the FCC staff saw more red flags - individuals trying to order huge amounts of goods from stores. Again backed up by reviewing the call records.

5. Review of call detail records has disclosed a significant number of calls from single users making back-to-back calls to a high number of pharmacies;

The pattern continued with pharmacies, probably from fraudsters trying to get lots of prescription drugs.

8. Review of call detail records has disclosed a significant number of calls from ten-digit numbers that are active for only a few days.These numbers were associated with multiple calls to particular types of vendors - banks, department stores, and pharmacies, however Commission staff has advised RL that it is continuing to review and may find similar calling patterns to other types of businesses.

The FCC staff suspected similar patterns would be found with other business categories. Patterns of individuals trying to get products in bulk.

To establish that any call is legitimate, we would suggest at least the following information related to MOUs submitted for payment incurred in July of 2014 be provided:
* Pertinent registration information for the relay beneficiary/user of the TDN's making numerous compensable calls to department stores, pharmacies, or to banks in July 2014, particularly when there do not appear to be calls to anyone else.
* A general description of the hearing party to the call; e.g. commercial bank, private party, department store, medical professional.

Here, upon first reading, the snippet appears to bolster Purple's claim of being required to monitor users' calls. But upon closer, more careful reading - note the bolded text - it can be seen that the FCC is actually only requesting details for the callers suspected of making fraudulent calls. The FCC is NOT requiring details for ALL callers' records!