IVR Accessibility

All interactive voice response applications have accessibility implications.Some are good: blind users can get information by voice that they couldn’t get on a screen. Some are bad: if an IVR’s prompts are not recorded well, hard of hearing users won’t be able to make choices or hear content.

IVRs are explicitly covered by Section 255 of the 1996 Telecom Act, under the authority of the FCC. The FCC maintains a website on accessibility; here is the FCC reminder to the IVR industry about accessibility.

There is work to be done by all the links in the value chain: IVR platform manufacturers, telecom carriers, and the movie theatres, banks, and other entities that use IVRs in their business.

IVR Applications

For clarity, we divide IVR into three applications:

  • Auto-attendant. The system gives callers a menu of options (such as “for sales, press 1; for shipping, press 2”) and then routes the phone call to a specific person or department.
  • Audiotext. The system gives callers a menu of options (such as “to hear mortgage rates, press 1; to hear hours of operation, press 2”) and then plays the selected information with recorded or synthesized speech.
  • Voice mail. The system acts as an answering machine, playing the outgoing message and recording incoming messages, with an interface for both the callerand the subscriber.

IVR Accessibility Implications

One IVR Accessibility Forum project is to collect and organize detailed information about the obstacles IVRs pose to people with disabilities, and IVR advantages as well. We have put this information together three ways:

All views include links to definitions in the IVR Accessibility Glossary.

IVR Accessibility Evaluation Checklists

The IVR Accessibility Forum has developed a way to evaluate IVRs. You can perform either a Voice IVR or a TTY IVR evaluation.

These checklists are not part of an authoritative evaluation for regulatory compliance, either under Section 255 or Section 508.

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