There are a range of banks, building societies and other financial providers who are giving blind and partially sighted people excellent customer service.
In 2005 Northern Bank became the first bank in the UK to offer talking cash machines. Blind or partially sighted people can use the talking cash machines to take out cash, check their balance or change their PIN number by using headphones to hear on screen information. You don't have to be an account holder with Northern Bank, any blind or partially sighted person can use the talking cash machines.
"Talking ATMs make me totally independent. I don't have to carry so much cash or go to my bank, which is seven miles away." James
Following the launch of the RNIB Make Money Talk campaign, Barclays became the first UK bank to roll out talking ATMs on a large scale. By the end of 2012 over 80 per cent of Barclays 4,000 plus machines were speech enabled, including all of those in Asda supermarkets.
PayPoint operates payment terminals in stores such as Spar, McColls, Costcutter, Sainsbury’s Local, One Stop, Asda, Londis and thousands of independents
It also operates over 2,500 ATMs, and in 2013 became the first independent provider in the UK (those not attached to a bank or building society) to introduce talking cash machines. Just over one in four PayPoint ATMs are equipped with a functioning audio facility and the RNIB has a commitment that this will rise to at least one in two machines by 2015.
In spring 2013, the Co-operative Bank became the first in the UK to make all its ATMs talk. In addition the bank introduced high-contrast screens for partially sighted people, this unique facility is also available in 100 per cent of its ATMs.
First Direct telephone banking is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. All callers speak straight away to a real person without the need for complicated press one for this, or two for that procedures. All First Direct telephone staff have access to free-form customer notes - so blind and partially sighted people will not have to explain their individual requirements each time they speak to a different member of staff. First Direct procedures also make it easier for customers to be identified. For example, customers set their own passwords, with no pre-ordained criteria, such as a mixture of numbers and letters - making them easy to remember, but if somebody does forget their password a series of back-up questions are used to verify identity. Again, these are pre-selected by the customer. Once identified First Direct are happy to speak to anybody else its customer wishes to pass the phone to, this means no one is going to cite data protection issues if another person reads out something such as a debit card number or even handles the rest of the call. All First Direct customers have full access to the 1,187 branches of HSBC, or the 29 branches of M&S Bank across the UK.
RBS operate mobile banking vans in some rural areas of Scotland, Wales and South West England, where access to branch banking or Post Office facilities is often not possible without a car. The vans run to a regular schedule with regular stops; information is available through calling the RBS helpdesk, visiting its website, or from the staff on-board the remote branch van. Disabled or elderly customers can request a "Please Stop Here" board for their window, or they can call ahead and request the staff visit them in their home. The bank even operates a flying branch for the Scottish isles!
Cumberland is the eleventh largest building society in the UK with 34 branches, mainly in Cumbria and Dumfriesshire, extending to North Lancashire and Haltwhistle in Northumberland. Its ethic has always been friendly, local service and this is evidenced by the society's "Mother Test". All staff are trained and encouraged to treat every customer as they would expect their own mother to be treated. In addition, refresher training on dealing with vulnerable/disabled customers is undertaken with all staff once every quarter, and all new staff as part of an induction programme. Once a year every member of staff is examined to test their knowledge. The training and tests not only touch upon how to approach and best serve disabled customers, but also how to spot whether somebody is being manipulated, scammed or pressurised, and how best to deal with such events.
Simplyhealth is one of the UK's biggest providers of private medical insurance (PMI). It has been trading under various guises for over 140 years and at present serves nearly 4 million people, including 20,000 businesses who choose it as their healthcare provider. The company also incorporates Denplan, the UK's largest provider of dental care and treatment plans, which has 2 million customers. Via RNIB, the company now offers all it literature in alternative formats and is able to actively flag accounts to ensure that customers can continue to receive their preferred format, no matter whether they are receiving a standard statement or an ad-hoc letter.
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