EL PASO, TX – In response to protests by Hispanic groups, telephony companies are reprogramming language voice prompts. Spanish will move from #2 to #1.
Hispanic groups from every state have filed discrimination complaints for years about being #2 on telephone voice prompts, but nothing was ever done about it. Normally, a person is given an option to “press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish” but this has made many Hispanics feel like second class citizens. Hector Zavala of the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group in the United Sates said, “for too long Hispanic citizens have been discriminated against because whenever they call businesses or government agencies they are told they are #2. We are tired of it. We want to be #1. It’s our time.”
Lawyers for the major phone companies (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) and major government agencies (IRS, Sallie Mae, FHS) settled the case before it went before the Texas 5th Court of Appeal in Dallas. “Hispanics have been slighted for years and it’s only fair that they get to be #1 for a while,” said Dallas attorney Wade Wilkins, who was defending the corporations against La Raza. “But it will only be a temporary move. The judge has agreed to move English back to #1 on the voice prompt in 2012.” La Raza is appealing that part of the judge’s decision.
The change has sparked a firestorm of controversy. The Council of American-Islamic Relations has lobbied to have Arabic moved to #1 before English is ever moved back. Asian American Civil Rights groups have also applied to be moved up. “Mandarin isn’t even on most voice prompts and when we are, we are listed as #3. Who can wait that long when you are making an important call? We want to be #2. English can be #3 for a while,” said Kim Cheng of the Organization of Chinese Americans.
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) groups are also demanding that they get a voice prompt, even though there is no unique language associated with their group. Tom Davinski of Queer Youth said, “Why can’t gays get their own voice prompt? Why must we always being ignored? We want our own button!”
Phone companies across the country are now in chaos because everyone is calling to get their own voice prompt buttons, but the phone companies don’t know how to put people on hold while they are trying to decide what to do. “Our offices are becoming a Tower of Babel,” said Wendy Overbrook at Verizon. “I don’t know how we are going to get out of this. We need an operator to help us.”
To make matters worse, President Obama has restricted all use of the “0” button. “That’s my button. I don’t want anyone using it except Michelle, Sasha and Malia.”
If you have any complaints about voice prompts, call your Congressperson and/or Senator. You’ll be asked to press #1 if you want English to be number #1 or press #2 if you want English to be #2, unless you’re Spanish then you must press #2, then #1, or press #1 and #2. Well… maybe you shouldn’t call.