The Post Office’s Thoughtlessness Towards Accessibility Is Enough To Make One Go Postal!

I was hoping to have something funny between angry chomping posts, but nothing funny came to me. So let’s go, chomp chomp chomp.

Back in December, I walked down to the post office. I was going to send Ro her Christmas present. That’s a pretty simple task. I walked in there, got it all boxed up and addressed, and went to pay. Since I have no idea how much it should cost to send some stuff to the states, I was going to pay by debit. She took my debit card and began to stammer. “Um, uh, er, I don’t think we can do this.” I looked at the flat screen in front of me, and instantly knew why. Just like Future Shop, they had gone to a touchscreen debit pad system.

I couldn’t believe it. I stood there, and the girl didn’t know what to do. She said this was all because they went to a new system that could read the chips in new debit cards, and they had to go to this new system because by law they have to accept chips. I said that not all chip-reading debit pads were touchscreen, so they still would have had the opportunity to choose an accessible machine. One employee after another barked at me that I’d just have to bring someone with me, and I’d just have to go to the bank and get cash. I said I was mailing this thing today, after all, they said if I didn’t mail it today, it wouldn’t reach Ro by Christmas, so I couldn’t just rustle up a set of eyeballs to do my PIN for me, nor did I want to. It’s my PIN! I also said I was not going to make an extra trip outside to get cash, so we had to figure something out. I eventually paid with my credit card, but I told them that this was not acceptable and this wouldn’t be the end of it. I asked them where I could direct feedback, and asked them to do the same. They told me to go on their website.

That day, I just happened to be going to the mall to buy some Christmas presents. I took note of every machine that had a chip reader that I could still use, and let everyone know who was serving me what the post office said about how new chip-readers were all touchscreens. I thanked all the ones who had chip readers for choosing a pad with buttons, and asked all the ones with the swipe-style pads to remember accessibility when the time came to get chip-readers.

I came home a little bit mad that the post office had decided to do this Canada wide. It sucks when a business does it, but when an arm of the government does it, it’s pretty disgusting. I guess I can expect nothing less from the same government who appeals rulings demanding they become accessible. So, I complained. I complained by email, and I complained by phone. Once the phone system would actually take my call, I felt like I was getting somewhere. For a while, all the phone would say was “Sorry, we’re overwhelmed with calls so we can’t talk to you right now. Call back later.” and it would hang up. But once I got through, the lady who I spoke to was pretty understanding of my problem.

And here’s a perplexing little thing to note. Why does the standard Canada Post site work better than the basic one designed for screenreaders and mobile phones? Why could I get the contact page to work on the standard site but not on the basic one? Very very odd.

I also talked to other blind folks, and asked them if they felt an overwhelming urge to go to the post office and pay debit, just so they could see if their debit pad was touchscreen. It was then that I discovered that the AEBC has already complained to the post office about this new development, and the following seems to be the post office’s strategy.

Every Canada Post is getting a touchscreen machine called a verifone MX870. But if a blind person screeeeams, the post office has the option of replacing that machine with a “more friendly” version called the verifone model MX860. Wow. Isn’t that just the most ass backwards way of serving the public? If you know the one model has accessibility issues, why not just use the friendlier version? Why make the customer have to yell for their rights? Some of us aren’t as outspoken and stubborn as I am. They’ll just lay down and take it. Oh, that’s probably why Canada Post has chosen this way of dealing with us.

A few days later, I got a nice phone call from the supervisor here at the post office. She says that in six-eight weeks, they’ll be bringing in a friendlier machine that I should be able to use. I asked her if she’d call me back when it was in so I could test it, and then I would let her know my thoughts. She said she would. We shall see.

So, if you use Canada Post, and you can’t use the touchscreen, speak up. Don’t let them think that flat PIN pads are acceptable. Speaking my PIN out loud is not an option at all. I’ve already explained that in the Future Shop post. It shouldn’t be difficult for people to understand why. Would you speak your PIN out loud? No? Then why should I?

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