Orange with crossed out VI person in center

Orange is Cancelling the Wildfire Service

Calling all ORANGE mobile phone users and family and friends of people who are users of ORANGE's Wildfire service!

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Help us to persuade Orange that this business decision should take the Disability Discrimination Act into consideration.

Wildfire Survey: Please go and fill out this Survey. The survey is set up to see whether it is economically viable to set up wildfire, and is one possible solution to her loss.
VoxSurf Correction: I got Mike Wright's review of Voxsurf wriong, so here is the correct link.
Orange Response : Orange have a new page up about their decision, and a FAQ about the closure. Worth reading, but frankly comments like "Over the last eighteen months user numbers have declined and with fewer and fewer Wildfire customers, it's now become financially and technically impractical to run as a service." sound a bit false when you can see that they have in fact closed the Wildfire service to new customers for 2 years.
More Orange spin : "The TALKS software is the nearest thing on the market that we could find to the Wildfire service and that's why we're offering all customers with sensory disabilities the free software." Not really true, they are giving the TALKS software because of this website and the support of everyone who has posted here. I'd say that it makes a big wakeup call for Orange, but not big enough!
Radio Interview Online : Listen to the Radio 4 Interview (.ram file, needs Real Player)
VoxSurf : A possible replacement for Wildfire is mentioned here, VoxSurf. Read a Review of VoxSurf by Mike Wright
Orange List : More disgruntled customers sounding off - will Orange listen to existing customers, or is the advertising campaign just so much guff? Check out the Orange User Group
More Press : "Orange postpones Wildfire closure" From The Register
More Press : "Orange Delays Wildfire Closure After Customer Pressure" From Dow Jones newswire
Wildfire Reprieve : Orange have said that they will keep her going until 1st July, rather than turning her off on 1st June. They will be announcing this in the "In Touch" interview (at 8:40PM on Radio 4, Tues 17th May). See, it does make a difference when customers speak up!
Radio 4 : Kate Crofts and Rory Heap (Co-founders of this campaign) will be interviewed regarding this matter on Radio 4's In Touch programme next Tuesday (17th May).
News Articles : "Orange blasted for extinguishing Wildfire" from The Register. Thanks to Tim Richardson for picking up on this. Who knows, maybe the opinion of the customer might count for something!
News Articles : "Orange snuffs out Wildfire" from The Register is the first news article to pick up on this. We'll see if anyone else is interested as the campaign gets going.
Other Links : We're not the only ones who think this way. Check out and make sure to go to this Petition to Save Wildfire and add your name.

On 1st June 2005 ORANGE are going to withdraw a vital service they currently provide which enables customers to access their phone book and messages without needing to read the screen or touch the buttons of their handset, this service is called "Wildfire".

We need to act fast to either persuade ORANGE not to withdraw this service or to make the "reasonable adjustment" of providing an equally accessible alternative at no extra cost

Please help us to lobby them. ORANGE are contacting customers right now, from May 4th 2005 onwards.

How to help:

Further information about Wildfire

What Orange Say

Call to Action

How to help:

If you are currently a Wildfire user (sighted or visually impaired) ORANGE should soon be sending you a letter casually informing you of the proposed withdrawal of Wildfire and inviting you to call 294 from your handset to arrange a call back from someone regarding any concerns you may have.

If you are a visually impaired customer

We strongly advise that you call 294, request a call back and when you receive your call back (most likely from "Bradley"):

  • he will explain to you they the Wildfire platform is unstable and hence it is being withdrawn
  • he will offer you a free upgrade to a phone of your choice OR £4 per month off your bill until your next upgrade- THIS IS SHORT CHANGING YOU FOR YOUR LOSS!

You should:

  • re-iterate your satisfaction with the Wildfire service
  • state that without it or a technological equivalent you cannot access your contact numbers or your messages
  • state that the set up time and time learning how to use Wildfire cost you a significant amount in call time
  • state that to retrieve a record of all of your numbers from Wildfire you will need to incur high call time costs
  • state that you will require assistance from a sighted person in order to then put all your contacts into your handsets phone book
  • and state that the only way you will then be able to access your phone book would be to install the TALKS software (interactive speech software for 6000 series mobile phones, currently retailing at 150 but available in a package from Vodafone), for more information about TALKS see RNIB's review of TALKS and links to relevant sites by clicking the link
  • and that you think the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) requires ORANGE to provide a replacement service and reimbursement of additional costs that will be incurred due to the withdrawal of this service
  • furthermore, to come back to Orange's possible assertion that they only have 58 Wildfire users whom they know to be visually impaired hence it is not cost effective to continue the service is to point out that many visually impaired customers (including one of the people mounting this campaign) are visually impaired but choose to receive standard print ORANGE bills and have hence not identified themselves as being visually impaired to ORANGE.

If you are a customer with other reasons for wishing to fight for the retention of Wildfire

please use your own points and the information set out in this document to argue your case with ORANGE.

If you are an ORANGE customer who has stayed with the network in order to facilitate communication with a blind or partially sighted friend or relative you can contact ORANGE Customer Services by calling 150 from your handset or by emailing and alert them to:

  • your consternation at the idea of your visually impaired friend or relative finding it harder to contact you by telephone
  • your concern that your visually impaired friend or relative will be forced to leave the ORANGE network to seek accessible technology from another provider.
  • your consideration of leaving the ORANGE network yourself in order to keep call costs down and/or move to a preferential tariff now that you have no reason to be loyal to ORANGE.

and if that doesn't work you could call 249 from your handset and ask to complete a Customer Satisfaction Survey over the phone!

Anyone else who wants to help

Please use the above information as best you can to further our cause!

Further information about Wildfire

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 E-access 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 ( 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."

For more on Wildfire visit: (Now removed) where they'll proudly tell you:

What is Wildfire?

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.
You can use Wildfire from another phone (even from a fixed phone) and place calls, charging them to your Orange account.

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.

The snags

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 (, 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."

"Not all disabled people classify themselves as disabled, or wish to highlight their disability. Employees and representatives of service providers should therefore exercise a degree of sensitivity, and not readily expect people to be able to immediately articulate their specific needs or to be aware of products which the service provider offers. Where there is doubt, service provider employees should ask disabled customers how best they might be served. "

"The following examples of staff behaviour must be avoided:

  • requiring a disabled customer to provide more information than a non-disabled customer in order to obtain a product or service."

"A service provider should also:

  • listen to its disabled customers and regularly ask for their views and opinions on the provision of services;
  • be responsive and flexible in its approach to serving disabled customers;
  • consult disability organisations for assistance and information on disability issues."

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".

Call to Action



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