This post was sponsored by Comcast but all opinions are my own.
Have you ever thought about what happens when a person with a hearing impairment needs to call customer service? How do they relay their message? Imagine how frustrating it must be to have a simple question answered. American Sign Language (ASL) is the fourth most used language in the United States and yet this community continues to be overlooked.
Comcast and Connect Direct, a subsidiary of Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), launched customer service support via ASL for Internet Essentials, Xfinity Internet, and general Xfinity billing questions, called ASL Now. This is an amazing step in addressing the digital divide. Comcast announced ASL Now at digital inclusion rally at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD) where Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer David L. Cohen stated that “The Internet is an incredible resource so long as you have the skills and the tools to use it. By partnering with Connect Direct and working with the deaf community, we want to address and break down the barriers to broadband adoption that are unique to this population. That starts by being able to speak with customers in their native language.”
I attended the rally and was moved to tears over the excitement of this announcement. PSD is located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and is the third oldest school for the deaf in the nation. They educate students from grades preK-12 and provide transitional services to help students fulfill goals. This announcement was a great way to kick off the celebration of their 200th anniversary.
Along with the announcement of ASL Now, Comcast also surprised 90 students by giving them free tablets and six months of complimentary Internet service at home through the Internet Essentials program. Additionally, in partnership with Dell Technologies, the Company announced it will donate new computer equipment to PSD for students to learn vital digital skills.
Internet Essentials is a Comcast sponsored program that provides low-cost internet access at home to low-income households within its service area at just $9.95/month with no additional fees.. This program was recently expanded to all eligible low-income households, as well as families with people with disabilities. It is estimated that this recent expansion will double the number of families who will have access to the internet. Comcast led the pathway for this program in 2011 with a goal to address the lack of digital literacy skills, lack of internet awareness to everyday life needs, fear of the Internet, the lack of a computer, and cost. In addition to the low-cost, the program includes: multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online, and in person, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150.
To apply for the program, low-income applicants simply need to show they are participating in one of more than a dozen different government assistance programs. A full list can be found at www.internetessentials.com. The accessible website can be read in seven different languages and there is also a dedicated phone number 1-855-846-8376. Information about the new ASL Now service can be found at www.internetessentials.com/accessibility. Spanish-only speakers can call 1-855-765-6995