CITROËN has made the car buying process much easier for deaf people and the hard of hearing by introducing technology into its UK dealerships that allows customers to interact with staff using British Sign Language.
The French car maker has partnered with online interpreting service SignLive to install video equipment in all of its 190-strong sales and service network. SignLive can link those who need to use sign language by live video to an interpreter, who can then tell the sales or service staff what the customer is saying.
The SignLive service takes between five and 20 seconds to connect and will be installed on tablets that can be used by customers and staff in Citroën UK’s premises. All of Citroën’s UK-based employees have been trained to use the system to maximise accessibility for the approximately 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, and 150,000 British Sign Language users.
Citroën is to introduce a new marketing campaign, entitled ‘The French Car that Speaks your Language’, which it says will include more accessibility for the deaf community, including sign language as part of marketing and advertising efforts.
Eurig Druce, Managing Director of Citroën UK, said: “By partnering with SignLive, we once again demonstrate how our customers inspire our thoughts and actions as we improve the way we serve deaf and hard of hearing people.
“The nationwide adoption of SignLive across Citroën UK’s retailers will transform the car buying process for thousands of motorists, ensuring that it’s not only our products that deliver comfort and serenity for all – the customer experience does as well.”
Deaf people and driving
Being able to listen out for emergency service vehicles and other hazards on the road, as well as defects with your car, is considered important but not being able to do so due to being deaf or having hearing loss does not exclude people from driving.
According to British Deaf News: “It’s actually a common misconception that deaf people can’t drive. It’s not compulsory to hear to be able to drive. What we lose in hearing, we gain in our other senses.”
According to the government website, you don’t need to tell Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) if you’re deaf in order to hold a motorcycle or car licence, though there is a caveat: you can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving, and you may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result.
And the rule is different for those applying for a bus, coach or lorry licence, as they must inform the DVLA up front if they are deaf.
Hearing-direct.com claims research has shown that deaf people and the hard of hearing do not cause more traffic accidents than drivers with regular hearing, and argues that people with hearing loss are more alert to visual warnings such as flashing lights, and are more likely to pick up on on faults with the car through unusual vibrations.
The website also says that drivers with hearing loss are “more cautious and find ways to observe the road and traffic in a more concentrated manner”, and deaf drivers are not going to be distracted by loud music or mobile phone calls while driving.
The challenge of buying a new car for deaf people
Joel Kellhofer, CEO of SignLive, said: “The process of purchasing a car has, up until now, been inaccessible for the deaf community, with retail experiences on the whole a regular challenge for deaf and hard of hearing people.
“It is great to see a leading retailer like Citroën make a positive change to provide British Sign Language users with access to interpreters for support on their car-buying journey, totally free of charge. We’re delighted to support Citroën and all of its dealerships throughout the UK in making this massive change.”
Amanda Casson-Webb, joint CEO of the Royal Association for Deaf people (RAD) welcomed Citroën UK partnership with SignLive. “This is great news and a positive step in ensuring that the deaf community will have the same opportunity and car-buying experience as hearing people,” she said.
“We know from first-hand experience that the process of buying a new car can be challenging for many deaf people, and hope that other car manufacturers follow Citroën’s lead. Congratulations to Citroën for being the first manufacturer to consider and adopt better accessibility for deaf people.”
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