Vodacom takes away a little more independence from the visually impaired in South Africa

Standard Bank’s short dial number service, which allows a Standardbank account holder to dial a short number from his or her mobile phone in order to recharge a mobile phone with airtime from a Standard bank account, may be discontinued.

The service is currently only available on MTN and Cell C.

Vodacom South Africa discontinued the availability of the short dial number on their network, saying that noone is using this service.

However, this is not true as many shocked Vodacom South Africa blind users have been expressing their concern via mailing lists and other social media.

One user wrote: “As a blind person, I was given a little more independence and dignity by not having to ask a sighted person to go to the bank with me just to recharge my account or to give them money to by a recharge voucher, in most cases just to be cheated!”

Another said that: “I was able to recharge my phone under a minute, all whilst walking, I was so used to the process…”

The process was really simple. All one had to do was to dial a short code number from a phone, and the system would then prompt the caller via an interactive voice response system, to enter their card number, customer selected pin, to select the specific network that they want to purchase airtime for, to specify the phone number and Standard Bank account to be used for this transaction and then to specify the amount to be loaded.

After this, the system would confirm all the details and one could then confirm the recharge, make changes or cancel the transaction.

The system was happy to be interrupted, if you already knew the drill, so that it was indeed possible to recharge a pre-paid number in less than a minute.

The general feeling amongst visually impaired and even elderly people with vision loss is that they are losing an important part of their independence as a result of Vodacom’s decision to cancel their short dial service.

Vodacom cancelled the short dial number, 11333, on the 15th of August although the number was already out of service before then.

When I contacted Vodacom’s (Special needs) helpdesk, they told me to use the USSD service, *120*2345#. However, many blind people do not have accessible phones and thus, this service is out of reach for a majority of these users.

When I pointed this out to the consultant, I was told that this is not Vodacom’s problem and that Standard bank is in charge of these services.

Regardless of who’s fault this is, many Vodacom users are now not able to recharge their prepaid accounts independently and as frequently as they may need to.

For those on Cell C and MTN, things are looking up though, for the moment, since the service is still working on these networks.

Perhaps Vodacom users should look at porting their phone number to one of the other networks so that they may enjoy the benefits of having access to the Standard bank short dial service while it lasts.

To access the short dial numbers for Standard Bank, dial 14311 from a Cell C phone or 565 from a MTN phone.

Standard bank did not provide a response by the time of publication.