RNIB urges Select Committee Inquiry to take action on improving the accessibility of financial services.

Post date: 
Thursday, 15 November 2018
Category: 
Accessible information
Eleanor Southwood giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee
RNIB’s Chair Eleanor Southwood has told MPs about the importance of making ATMs accessible, so that they can be used by blind and partially sighted people.
 
She was speaking at an inquiry session of the Treasury Select Committee, which is looking at access to financial services.
 
Eleanor raised 3 key issues: the need for all information to be provided in a format that a blind or partially sighted consumer can read, for ATMs to have accessibility built in and for online banking and apps to be fully accessible. 
 
During questioning from Stephen Hammond MP, she highlighted the need for ATMs to include an audio output, that enables a person to use headphones and be guided through the screen options, or an equivalent accessibility feature as we move ever closer to full touch screen technology.
 
Eleanor went on to say how important it is that providers of such technology work with blind and partially sighted people to get things right from the outset. She later returned to this vital point when talking about websites:
 

“We know of a bank who changed their website and later consulted with us. How much better it would have been to have worked with us from the start, it would have saved them money too”. 

During further questions, from Rushanara Ali MP and Wes Streeting MP, Eleanor was asked about the closure of local bank branches and the increased use of post offices to cover this gap. She took the opportunity to raise the importance of apps and online banking being accessible, saying that if this were the case then the closure of local branches would be less of an issue. Eleanor also said that for users of chip and signature the Post Office wasn't accessible as they didn't accept this means of withdrawing cash.
 
This was a hugely useful session and we can expect some of the points which Eleanor raised to be mentioned to further witnesses as the inquiry continues. 
 
We would very much wish to see some of the points included in the Committee's final report and recommendations to the financial sector. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the financial sector to provide solutions to the issues of accessibility and ensure bind and partially sighted consumers are not excluded from their services.
 
The Treasury Select Committee launched this inquiry into consumer access to financial services On November 9. Select Committees work in both Houses and check and report on areas ranging from the work of government departments to economic affairs. The results of these inquiries are public, and many require a response from the government.
 
The Treasury Select Committee's inquiry will focus on the interaction between vulnerable consumers and financial services firms. In Wednesday’s session, the committee considered whether certain groups of consumers are being excluded from obtaining a basic level of service from financial services providers, such as accessing banking, mortgage services, and insurance.
 
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