Cellphone company hangs up on Mill Valley woman

May 5, 2013 11:57:39 AM PDT
Starting over after a life changing event like sudden blindness is tough to do. For a Mill Valley woman, it became apparent she would need 7 On Your Side to help her get the one simple tool she needed. That's when Michael Finney stepped in.

Noryne Turner had an aneurism last thanksgiving that left her blind and cut off from the world.

"I've always been an active person and done a lot of things," said Turner.

But now she couldn't read. So, her first step was to get a voice activated phone that would help her connect the old fashioned way -- by talking to people.

"And um, give me something to do. To do all the research and figure out where I would fit, and to help other people," she said.

Turner says she'd bought her standard Verizon phone at a discount when she signed up for a service contract in August 2012. That phone only cost her $99 and she still had 18 months to go on the contract.

She was willing to pay for a new voice activated phone, but she wanted a discount since she was already a customer.

But store employees told her that was not company policy. If she wanted to break her contract she would have to pay full retail for the new phone. They quoted her a price of $650.

"They wanted more money and I said, you know, I did confront them with, 'Do you want me as a customer or do you want me to go away?' And they said, 'Oh no, we want you, we want you,' And I said, 'Well then why aren't you helping me?'" Turner said.

Help came from 7 On Your Side. After we contacted Verizon, Turner's next trip to the store was very different.

"They said, 'We do have a phone that we want you to try and it is voice activated and it would be complimentary.'" she said.

A spokesperson from Verizon did not want to go on camera but told us in an email statement that:

We are committed to... providing accessible products and services that meet the communications needs of our customers with disabilities. I'm pleased that we were able to help Ms. Turner determine which device best meets her needs and we appreciate her continued business.

Under federal law, phone companies must reasonably accommodate people with disabilities and provide access to the products and services they need. They are not required to do this for free.

With her new phone, Turner's world opened up. She found services for the blind she didn't know existed. Recently she gained back a little vision in one eye and is feeling optimistic.

"I can go to the movies. I can watch the TV. I put my nose up to the screen. Um, so I'm getting there," Turner said.

And it all started with a phone.

"Yeah, I'm delighted. I'm delighted. And I've told everybody that I know that you've really helped me," she said.

One of the organizations turner connected with is lighthouse.org. It's a clear house of resources for vision impaired people. Turner found the lighthouse using her new phone.


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