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Orange blasted for extinguishing Wildfire

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Orange is facing a PR crisis following its decision to extinguish its Wildfire voice recognition system for mobile phone users.

Earlier this week El Reg revealed that the French-owned cellco is pulling the plug on the voice activated digital personal assistant that does all sorts of clever things on the end of a mobile phone.

It's loyal army of users have been lobbying Orange to change its mind. Now, though, a new site run by Kate Crofts, who is registered blind, has been set up to muster support to overturn Orange's decision.

"Help us to persuade Orange that this business decision should take the Disability Discrimination Act into consideration," says the campaign website.

"We need to act fast to either persuade Orange not to withdraw this service or to make the 'reasonable adjustment' of providing an equally accessible alternative at no extra cost."

She told The Register that blind and visually impaired people such as herself rely on Wildfire to mange her phone book and make calls. By pulling Wildfire, people with sight problems are going to find it harder to stay in touch with friends and family.

So far she's failed to get Orange to take any notice and has accused the company of "sticking its head in the sand".

In a statement on the site husband Phil said: "I set up this site, because I want Orange to keep Wildfire running or for them to provide an equivalent or better service at no extra cost.

"My wife, Kate, is visually impaired, and she finds Wildfire not only a vital service, but also one of the most excellent services that she has come across that helps VI (visually impaired) people without having been bespokely designed for that purpose.

"The loss of Wildfire will be a huge blow to her ability to use a mobile phone which is a lifeline for her in part due to her disability."

While Steve Tyler from the Royal National Institure of the Blind (RNIB) told us: "RNIB needs to establish with Orange whether or not there will be services that can be utilised by visually impaired people that will be replacing WildFire and for people who are working in an environment where a screen is impractical.

"Clearly accessibility to visually impaired people could be seriously compromised by such moves. We are looking to Orange to ensure that there is a clear strategy that ensures they remain competitive and are leading the way in access to services rather than following others."

Kate is due to appear on In Touch next Tuesday, a weekly programme on BBC radio devoted to people who are blind or partially-sighted.

No one at Orange was available today to comment on the latest developments. In a statement earlier this week the company said it had decided to close Wildfire because of declining numbers. ®

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