The Supreme Audit Office has performed an audit of the 60 public institutions that citizens contact most often. More than 2.5 years after the Sign Language Act was passed, 52 percent of the audited entities have not implemented any solutions allowing for communication with deaf people. A commercial entity – Bank Zachodni WBK – became an example of good practice, thanks to LiveBank, a product created and implemented by Software Mind, a Krakow company, part of the Wind Mobile group, which helps to include people who are excluded elsewhere.
The Sign Language Act, which requires public entities to implement facilities and tools enabling communication, contact and providing services to hearing-disabled people, has been in force in Poland for three years. Despite this fact, the majority of public institutions audited by the Supreme Audit Office were not prepared for communication with such people. Hearing-disabled people and Sign Language users still face a multitude of obstacles while trying to sort out even the simplest matters in so-called first contact institutions, that is the City Hall, tax authorities, police departments or ZUS.
The LiveBank service created by Software Mind SA, part of the LiveBranch family of products, which creates virtual branches, is a solution for all the problems deaf people face, and has been implemented by Bank Zachodni WBK in its daily operations. This state-of-the-art platform allows institutions to create virtual customer service channels using video transmission and desktop sharing technologies. It allows consultants to present their offer and services interactively, in real time, and thanks to its authentication and authorization mechanisms the platform fully supports transactions ordered in the “virtual branches.” Among the useful features of the LiveBranch platform there are interactive screens, which allow both sides to modify the parameters of the product or fill in documents, and the changes are immediately visible to both parties. The transfer of all files is encrypted, including photos of identification documents or signed applications, which may contribute to faster resolution of matters in many institutions, without having to wait in long queues. There also exists a possibility to implement 3-way videoconferences, which will allow the customer to contact their advisor, or an expert in a given field, such as a Sign Language interpreter.
“We are very happy that our solution is currently in use by a financial institution with such a great potential. As of now, over 3.5 million customers of Bank Zachodni WBK, part of the Santander Group, have access to services using a video channel. We are convinced that a platform based on the same principles could be used by offices and public institutions in Poland. More than once our solutions have been used in various segments of the market, because we always customize our products in order to match the requirements posed by the operational environment where our services will be deployed. Deaf people cannot be excluded from public life or be neglected by the state, especially in the age of dynamic development of distant communications technology. LiveBank supports customer service in banks, but we are currently implementing and developing solutions for our “Live” brand which suit other sectors and industries, and contribute to more active support for people with varying degrees of disability.” says Grzegorz Młynarczyk, Senior Vice President of the Wind Mobile Group.
According to auditors from the Supreme Audit Office, lack of knowledge about the limitations with which deaf people have to deal while communicating with their surroundings was one of the main reasons for the current state of affairs. Almost all the institutions tried to communicate with hearing-disabled and deaf people using written language, wrongly assuming that all those people fully understand the language. Meanwhile, for part of the deaf community, written language is a foreign language – very hard to learn, and the only easily understood form of communication is Sign Language.
“When a hearing person wants to quickly resolve an issue, they can take their phone and call. What can a deaf person do? Many institutions try and facilitate direct contact for their deaf customers. Some of them use long distance interpreting services, others – such as Bank Zachodni WBK – employ people who know Polish Sign Language. The LiveBank service perfectly responds to the needs of deaf people, because the consultants working with the bank have an in-depth knowledge of Polish Sign Language. Therefore, it is a solution that guarantees great quality, and the process of implementation could serve as a model. We hope that the ability to contact a BZ WBK advisor who knows Polish Sign Language is just the beginning, because similar services should be made available by other companies and public institutions. A perfect start would be to enable deaf people to use the 112 emergency number.” explains Piotr Kowalski of Polski Związek Głuchych (Polish Association of Deaf People).