Getting back flexibility: NAGDU switches to Twilio
There’s a good reason guide dogs have “don’t pet me, I’m working” printed on their harnesses. They may be adorable, but they’re working dogs first and foremost. Guide dogs offer blind men and women tremendously valuable services from navigation, to security, to companionship. The National Association of Guide Dog Users, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, gives blind people the access, training and information they need to be successful with their guide dog.
The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) uses Twilio to power one of the most powerful resources they offer their members – their hotline. It provides members with instant access to critical information on the American with Disabilities Act and their rights to take their guide dogs on planes, in restaurants etc. If they need any more help, the NAGDU has a team of volunteers ready and waiting to answer any questions members might have.
Hotline provides needed support
NAGDU president Marion Gwizdala started the hotline to answer common questions members had when getting accustomed to their guide dog. But with the first service provider they tried it was hard for Marion to keep that hotline up and running. It was costly and brittle. Updating the hotline’s critical pre-recorded messages and announcements was a hassle. Marion had to contact his service provider, give them the audio, pay them to change the audio prompts and then wait weeks for the change to go ship. Worse, the audio quality of the hotline was less than stellar, a big sticking point for NAGDU members.
Marion contacted developer and NAGDU member Aaron Cannon to see if he had any ideas on how they could improve the hotline, and get rid of their current provider. Aaron already had a plan. He told Marion about Twilio, the pricing, and the flexibility. Marion still was skeptical. He asked Aaron “Are you sure they’re not going to change their pricing structure in six months?” Aaron was sure, and quickly got to work switching their hotline over to Twilio and joined Twilio.org.
Tapping untapped potential: Revamping audio quality and hotline features
“My concern was not only the price but rather the flexibility, of lack thereof, to change the messages and update the messages and to do a lot more with the hotline. I saw some untapped potential,” said Cannon. “We got it all done very quickly. We’re very pleased,” he added.
When NAGDU switched to Twilio, they got to work on three primary areas of concern they had with their previous provider: audio fidelity, flexibility, and call recording. NAGDU re-recorded all their voice prompts in a studio, confident that Twilio would deliver the level of audio fidelity their members expected. They also built a feature for NAGDU hotline volunteers that allows them to login to the hotline remotely, from their personal phone, and set hours in which they will accept hotline calls forwarded to their personal phone. However, the most valuable asset NAGDU added is call recording.
When NAGDU members have an issue with denial of service in a restaurant because they have a guide dog with them, that’s not only a problem, it’s illegal. NAGDU President Marion Gwizdala heard stories time and time again about restaurants denying service, and later claiming the denial never happened.
Using Twilio, NAGDU gives members the option to call the hotline and be transferred to a volunteer while the call is being recorded. The NAGDU member who is having the issue can easily hand the phone to the restaurant owner, who will be on record with the volunteer. With this record, the NAGDU is well equipped with the evidence they need to get restaurants to respect the rights and of blind people.
NAGDU is currently working on iOS apps that integrate with the hotline as well as assembling a record of state specific regulations for guide dogs. Marion is confident they’ll be able to move fast now that they’re using Twilio.