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Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 12 News List

Blind operators taught to sell at Russia call center

by Anna Malpas  /  AFP , MOSCOW

Salaries at the center start at US$450 a month.

“That means a person can start a family, have a baby. He can start living, go on holiday. He can live as an equal member of society,” he said.

The salary is low by Moscow standards, even if people with disabilities are also eligible for state benefits.

Romanov called it “comparable” with pay at other call centers — although Moscow job advertisements indicate starting salaries of US$575 to US$670 — but he said his center had an edge because it could offer lower rates.

If that might sound exploitative, staff said they were grateful to have the chance to work again.

Trainee Sergei Bogomolov, 24, said he spent a year “watching television — if you can call it that,” after he lost his eyesight in a fight and couldn’t continue his job at a computer warehouse.

“Doing nothing makes you stupid,” he said.

The call center “helps you earn. It helps you return to life.”

The center takes on people with no computer knowledge or perhaps even work experience.

Olga Shilova, who used to teach the accordion at school, moved her fingers rapidly round the keyboard, making a cold call to sell water coolers.

Six months ago, “I practically didn’t know how to use a computer,” she said.

She came to the center on the recommendation of a friend after she lost her sight two years ago through illness and injuries when she was hit by a car.

She couldn’t continue at the school because the commuting became too hard, Shilova said, explaining that she still has trouble using a white stick and negotiating the metro.

“This center has saved me,” she said.

“It’s very interesting because it’s knowledge, you’re improving yourself, but it’s not easy,” she said.

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