Campaign to Access Orange
Thank you for helping us to persuade Orange that this business decision should take the Disability Discrimination Act into consideration.
In May 2005 ORANGE customers who subscribed to the WildFire service were given less than a months notice that the service was going to be terminated with no equivalent replacement service being provided. Within hours Kate and her close friend Rory Heap had mounted this online and radio campaign to either save WildFire or persuade ORANGE to provide an accessible alternative to WildFire to enable its customers to access their phone book and messages without needing to read the screen or touch the buttons of their handset.
Firstly we pointed out the need for ORANGE to consider the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act and gave guidance to all WildFire users and their friends and relatives about how best to lobby ORANGE via telephone, email, online petitions, media coverage and simple voting with their cash. This guidance included setting out all the salient points about the issue that had not been considered by ORANGE. We then got into contact with the Disability Rights Commission, RNIB and Radio 4.
In addition Kate and Rory did several radio and online news interviews to highlight the issue:
Some people on the site decided that there might be a market for Wildfire independent of Orange
At present ORANGE say 58 people they know to be visually impaired are using Wildfire, doubtless there are many more who have not identified themselves as visually impaired to Wildfire. I was one! If you want to register yourself as a user (VI or not) who wants Wildfire to stay on then add your name at the right hand of this page.
In January 2000 Orange's Wildfire service was heralded by the first ever
Bulletin,(an ongoing project sponsored by the Royal National Institute for
the Blind, with further support from the National Library for the Blind and the
Guide Dogs for the Blind Association) as:
The mobile phone company Orange (www.orange.co.uk) is in the process of rolling out a new speech recognition service for its phones - 'Wildfire'.
In fact Wildfire, they would have you believe, is more than a service: it is "an intelligent, invisible personal assistant" who uses the latest speech recognition technology to listen, react and respond to your spoken requests....
...The technology is based on the premise that voice activation and control is more intuitive and convenient than pressing buttons. As such, it has great potential value for the blind and partially sighted, as it allows one to do virtually anything that would have previously required dialing or menu-selection from the telephone handset, including manage and sort voicemail; phone people by name; interrupt a message playback if a call comes in; build an address book; and so on....
... Wildfire is run exclusively at the 'server-end' - you phone the network,
and Wildfire's intelligence resides on a remote computer-system. This means that
features can be added, and yet your phone need not be upgraded or customised in
any particular way. Wildfire is simply a short dial away, rather like BT's Call
Minder system with a sprinkling of extra personification and voice-activation."
Wildfire is a virtual personal assistant. You interact with Wildfire by talking to her as if she were alive (though you can use handset buttons if you prefer)
OK: Who is Wildfire?
She is a voicemail system that recognises voice commands and acts on them. She can store contact information about people and interact with callers when they reach your voicemail (Wildfire). She asks their name and their number (unless she knows them already).
Wildfire is the brand name of a product marketed by Wildfire Communications Inc, offered to phone operators all over the world. Orange is the only UK network to offer it to customers, and is the only network in the world to offer it without charging an additional monthly subscription.
What does she cost?
Orange offers wildfire at answer phone call charges, and if you are on an OVP price plan with free answer phone access, for free. You pay a 11.75 one-off connection charge to start using Wildfire.
What does she do?
If connected, to get Wildfire's attention, you just say "Wildfire"
With Wildfire listening, you can simply say "Call Albert". If Wildfire has more than one number recorded for Albert, she will ask which number to call.
Wildfire supports call waiting, and you can use her to set call diversion.
If you use your mobile phone when you are driving, or are otherwise unable to look numbers up or press buttons to connect, or if you are disabled, Wildfire is a wonderful boon.
If you have all your contact information stored in Wildfire, it is attached to your Orange account, and is available from any handset you use, but there is no way to get it all out if you decide to change networks (Or if Orange decide to disconnect Wildfire!).
What do Orange say?
In addition to what we've laid out above, it is very pertinent to note some of the statements Orange make on their own website (www.orange.co.uk/disabilityservices/), with relation to their adherence to the The Mobile Industry Good Practice Guide (Word 335KB), regarding how disabled customers should be served:
"Discrimination is often unintentional and may stem from a lack of awareness about disability, or from making incorrect assumptions. Service providers should plan for reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of their disabled customers, including both personal users and the employees of business customers. Where necessary and reasonable, service providers are under a legal obligation to adjust the way they provide their services so that disabled people can use them."
To date Orange have stated that The withdrawal is based on a business decision by Orange and "... cannot be changed on an individual basis." which was not what we were asking them to do and that "Senior Managers are considering the request to provide TALKS as an alternative".