Accessible banking: a guide

Post date: 
Wednesday, 26 April 2017
image shows bPay, a new service from Barclays

It is fast becoming a priority of the big high street bank branches to make their services more accessible for people who have specialist needs, such as sensory loss. But not all banks are created equal in terms of accessibility - and how do you know who provides the best services for you? Connect member Deanne O'Connor, who is deaf-blind, investigates some of the bigger banks.  

“Banking is something we use on an everyday basis, either to pay our bills, or pay for our shopping, and have our salary/benefits paid into every week/fortnight/month depending on how often you receive your money. But how accessible are the different banks for blind and partially sighted people?

Well, we may be soon faced with less ‘real’ bank branches than ever. There has been the suggestion that if the UK are to leave the EU, it's not going be beneficial for banks to stay in the UK; "Banking is probably more affected by Brexit than any other sector of the economy", the head of the British Bankers' Association has warned. Now this will lead to uncertainty to where our banks are going to be based in future, so the question that needs to be asked, is our local branches going to be closed? As 2017 is set to be a record year for high street bank closures, the answer is probably yes.

Although online and mobile phone banking transactions have increased by more than 400 percent, sometimes it is still necessary to visit a real branch with accessible features.  

I decided to research into accessibility at banks for blind and partially sighted customers, so I made visits to high street bank branches in my local area and wrote emails to relevant banks’ head offices about their accessibility. It would seem only certain banks serve limited amount of accessibility to a certain point and some won't go the extra mile to help us.”

Deanne's verdict on the most accessible banks

Barclays

In 2011 Barclays became the first major bank to sign up to our Make Money Talk campaign. Deanne says: “Barclays Bank informed me that there is accessibility assistance for anyone who needs help with their banking needs, abled or disabled, so in a way I suppose they have been as inclusive as possible.”

Their accessible services include:

  • Audio cash machines
  • Contactless Cash machines (trial at the moment)
  • Braille, large print and audio communications
  • Cheque, credit-slip and card-signing templates
  • Large-print credit and cheque books
  • Post office banking – if you don’t have a branch based near you
  • Signature stamp
  • Telephone Banking - They are offering voice biometrics within telephone banking using the customers’ voice print which is unique to every customer as added security measure.
  • bPay
  • Accessible online banking app - independently accredited by Ability net for their accessibility. Touch ID is available on IOS compatible devices – its authentication within the app (using your unique fingerprint). This is useful because it means that you can pay for things without having to see a pin pad.
  •  Android Mobile App – tapping the NFC reader on kiosk to make withdrawals with the app with fully compatible Talk-Back for extra convenience, security and accessibility. This isn’t available yet on Apple, but they are working tirelessly to bring the similar feature to the the Apple IOS smartphones at a later date.
  • Twitter – @BarclaysAccess. There is a dedicated accessibility Twitter account for you to ask questions to according to accessibility, and what your banking needs that are there to help you. Barclays Twitter is @BarclaysAccess
  • bPay is a pre-paid alternative to using your card. Deanne says: “It’s contactless and very easy to use, you just top it up from your chosen bank account and it will load money on to a band or key fob (you select your preferred method) to use. This means that when you go out, it's a safe, secure way of paying for items without the need to use your card, especially if you are struggling to use the chip and pin.”
  • High visibility card Barclays has also designed a high-visibility so the card is more noticeable to those with low vision. The card is a high contrast combination of yellow and blue.

When Deanne asked for a statement, Barclays said: 

“We take our accessibility commitments seriously and are actively consulting with a range of charities, customers and access consultants presently on new innovations, such as voice interfaces for banking, further cash machine personalisation options, and alternative formats for the digital age.” (Jo Higginson, Customer & Client Accessibility Strategic Transformation Barclays UK C&CE)

You can find out more about Barclay's accessibility policies on their website

Image shows the new accessible barclay card, which is purple with tactile cues to identifyNatwest

NatWest provide accessibility almost like Barclays apart from the bPay service.

Their accessible services include:

  • Talking cash machines (coming soon)
  • Accessible banking app accredited by RNIB 
  • Accessible debit card produced with RNIB. The debit card has purple background, and a carved out notch on the side of the card, with raised dots, it’s got a contactless sign, with NatWest’s logo and visa debit also stated on the card.
  • Touch ID accessibility for their mobile app on IOS, and the Android mobile app with NFC.
  • Audio Cash Machine - Raised dot on the number 5, Coloured keys for 'entry' and 'error', A depression in the middle of the keys making the keys easier to press.
  • Accessible Correspondence - Statements and general correspondence produced in Braille, large print or on audiotape, brochures produced in Braille, large print or on audiotape, PIN numbers provided in Braille
  • Signature stamps 
  • Cheque templates 
  • Accessible website features - bigger buttons, easier to navigate 

You can find out more about Natwest's accessibility policies on their website

What accessible services are available from other banks?

Deanne says: “I did visit Lloyds TSB, to ask them about their accessibility and it would seem that Lloyds TSB weren't very helpful really for blind and partially sighted people, as all they can provide is braille/audio statements.

They do have mobile banking and cash machines with headphone jacks on them, and bigger screens, but I can't tell if they have upgraded their machines recently from my own experience. When contacted about their online banking accessibility, they were unavailable for comment.

Halifax provides Touch ID for their Apple iOS Mobile Banking App. I also noticed that after my recent visit to Halifax they have invested in new cash machines, that have headphone jack for blind and partially sighted customers which are easy to use, but I have noticed the staff need to brush up on their accessibility skill set I think.

I think high street banks in general need to do more to be accessible and better support blind and partially sighted people through technology.”

If you have any questions you’d like to ask about accessible banking, or share your own point of view on what’s currently on offer, why not post about it on our messageboards? Or share your own story idea for a Connect blog or article by contacting connect@rnib.org.uk

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