/ Money

Banks, make cash machines work for the blind

Using a cash machine is something most of us take for granted. But if you’re blind, using a cashpoint isn’t such a simple task. However, there is a solution to make it easier and it’s time UK banks did something about it.

Cash machines provide an extremely important service that, unfortunately, simply isn’t available to blind and visually-impaired people in Britain. In America there are over 100,000 ‘talking cash machines’ – why shouldn’t this be the case in the UK?

It may surprise you to learn that many of the cash machines you use on a daily basis do actually have the capability to be used by blind and visually-impaired people.

You’ll probably have noticed, especially on newer cashpoints, that there’s a socket to plug headphones into. Amazingly, more often than not, these sockets haven’t been enabled for use!

In fact, only 0.001% of UK cashpoints have enabled this headphone capability, compared to 25% in the US and basically all ATMs in Australia.

Enable headphone sockets on cash machines

Once banks do enable this headphone facility, people who are blind or partially sighted will be able to plug in their earphones and hear what’s displayed on-screen and use the number pad to make selections.

I could attempt to explain why I think implementing this is important, but I’ll leave that job to someone far more qualified than me. Suzie Simons went blind nearly seven years ago and has taken up the reigns of this campaign to make Britain’s cash machines talk:

Getting all banks on board

Barclays and Lloyds have agreed to start bringing in this technology before the end of 2012, but this means there are still many other big banks whose cash machines remain off limits to Suzie and thousands of people like her.

RBS, HSBC, Santander and The Co-operative Bank are still refusing to provide this service and it’s time to apply a little bit of pressure to help them on their way.

I find it very difficult to understand why some the UK’s banks are so behind the times on this issue. Why are they dragging their feet on this? At best, it’s perplexing. At worst, it’s simply outrageous. It’s time to equip these systems and give people like Suzie the service she needs.

Comments
Guest
Fleur D-J says:
26 March 2012

I work supporting visually impaired people – on ocassion I have had to assist someone who is visually impaired to withdraw cash from an ATM – e.g. explaining the menu and what options are on the screen. Although there is a relationship of trust with the people I work with, it would be far better for them to have autonomy to deal with this simple transaction that sighted people take for granted, so that they could withdraw their own money, without having to rely on a third party. I think talking ATMs are an excellent idea – and the technology to make this happen already exists.

Guest
Goldy says:
26 March 2012

I think it’s outrageous that most banks haven’t implemented this, particularly if the technology is already there in newer machines. Well done to Suzie Simons for explaining so articulately just why this is so important for blind and partially sighted people, I hope that the banks take note!

Guest
Suzie says:
26 March 2012

Hi this is Suzie. I just wanted to write to thank Chris Mcbride for helping to highlight the importance of the Talking Cash Machines Campaign. I’ve been trying to get as much publicity as possible for this campaign as I feel so strongly about the fact that this technology has been available for over a decade, but for no good reason most of the banks in Britain have chosen not to make it available. Come on RBS, HSBC, Santander and The Co-operative Bank, please listen to your visually impaired customers. What are you waiting for!

Guest
Barrie says:
26 March 2012

The banks should be ashamed. Such a simple move on their part could make such a big difference to so many blind and partially sighted people. I hope this campaign makes the banks see sense and do the right thing. Come on banks, no more excuses – do the right thing!

Guest

You know what, I never realised that the headphone sockets in these machines didn’t actually work. That’s ridiculous! Barclays ATM’s near me were replaced with the headphone socket model a good 6 or 7 years ago now…are you telling me they haven’t been in operation all this time?

Guest
J Webb says:
27 March 2012

I worked for a long time with disabled people, mostly children but adults too. Many of them had visual impairment and found it difficult to live a totally independent life. If the banks can help by takiing this simple measure to make life easier for them then they should be ashamed to admit that they are not prepared to do it!!

Guest
jo c says:
27 March 2012

I think that it should be a legal requirment for banks to activate these head phone sockets and provide them if not already in situ.In the age of discrimination surely this is discrimination for them not to work.

Guest
Tim Wilson says:
27 March 2012

I too have noticed the headphone socket on some ATMs and am amazed that they’re not ready for use! It seems particularly disgraceful that the Co-operative Bank is refusing to install them, when their publicity makes such a big deal about how fair and ethical they are. Wonder what they would have to say for themselves.

Guest
john mccolgan says:
27 March 2012

Typical of RBS, yet another reason I changed banks