I thought I had all of the bases covered when it came to living in the Philippines with my hearing loss disability. Nope!
The Disability Decision
The decision to move to a foreign country for those with a disability is never quickly made. People with disabilities understand their limitations and research their planned host countries very well.
Many expat message boards have their own forums that are filled with questions about accessibility in foreign countries.
I’ve needed hearing aids in both ears for years. About four and a half years ago, I suddenly lost the hearing in my right ear. That was my “good” ear. That left me with only one semi-working ear.
I knew what I was up against, moving here. I did my homework. Modern technology helped me with things like banking and communicating and my wife would be my ears when we went out.
The Disability Curveball
I thought I was well-prepared for any problem that might come up. I was wrong.
Something triggered my bank’s “Suspicious Activity” alarm. I lost online access to my bank account.
After four years, my bank should know that I live here. I make several international charges a year for plane tickets and hotel rooms for my wife and me. I had no idea what had happened.
And I had no idea what to do now that the only option on my bank’s website was to call.
Call! Sure. With my hearing that would be useless.
Learning What’s Not
The onscreen notice did give the TTY (text telephone) access numbers so I thought I might be able to do that. I don’t have an actual text telephone but the Android version on my cell phone is supposed to have a TTY setting.
Then I learned something I didn’t know: Philippine phone networks don’t have TTY service. The old phone cradle/keyboard type wouldn’t work if I had one. The TTY setting isn’t even available on the Android phone menu here.
I guess there’s a good reason to not include TTY capabilities here. Everyone already communicates via text message. But I needed to “talk” to my US bank. They won’t accept a text message for conducting business.
Then I learned something else: my bank doesn’t have a text-based support platform of their own. They use Twitter.
At noon here in the Philippines, I sent the bank’s Twitter support a Direct Message about my problem. I got a reply saying they wouldn’t be available until 7 AM Eastern (U.S.) time. That was seven hours away.
When they finally replied, the fun began.
So that they can serve their huge customer load, after each reply they make the customer goes to the bottom of the stack. Then they work back down to you. Then they send a reply to your reply and put you on the bottom of the stack again. They continue like that, serving customers in order.
Eight hours later they asked for my phone number and said the Fraud Department would call me via “relay”.
More What’s Not
An Odd Resolution
Think And Rethink
The most important thing I learned is that expats like me with a disability need to not only think before we move to a foreign country but also rethink things once we’re there.
If I’d realized that my bank only has text-based support on Twitter, I would have learned earlier about the lack of TTY and IP Relay support here. That might have sent me to my advisor, Bob, before a problem occurred.
Think and rethink your disability, expats. We cope, don’t we?