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.”
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:
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.
NatWest provide accessibility almost like Barclays apart from the bPay service.
Their accessible services include:
You can find out more about Natwest's accessibility policies on their website.
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 [email protected].