/ 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

Guest

I find it hard to believe that in todays society, with todays technology, banks would not want to support people to be independant and provide an equitable service.

Guest

such a simple thing could make such a big difference, let’s hope the banks invest their profits in to something worthwhile for a change.

Guest
Jah Wobble says:
27 March 2012

Amazing isn’t it that the banks mentioned above can find the time, and expense, to defend fat cat recession-busting bonuses but can’t be bothered to invest in their customers, or tell anybody why they refuse to do anything as simple as this!
To be fair, Barclays have lead the way and were the first to announce they’ll have most of their machines talking by the end of 2012 and all of them by the end of 2013 – but it has taken them 6 years to get so far.

Guest

The banks seem to hold all their customers in contempt, but to treat their customers with the most need with still greater contempt is contemptible itself.
If the banks don’t want the public thinking of them as evil money grabbing leeches, here’s a great opportunity to do something about it and what are they doing?
Sitting behind a desk saying “No”

Guest
Henry says:
27 March 2012

Is there a ‘standard’ for ATM’s so that all the buttons (and headphone socket) are in the same position on every machine?
This would help everyone use them.

Guest

Well done to Barclays and lloyds. Get a move on the rest of the banks. It doesn’t take much on your part to make people’s lives easier!!!
Hope that things change for the better and quickly!!!!

Guest
Debbie Wisnia says:
27 March 2012

Why do we live in a society with a ‘no or cant be bothered culture’. One small step for a large bank would not only give them good publicity but would also re-enforce what a ‘peoples bank’ is all about.

Guest

Good on Barcleys and Lloyds – as for RBS, HSBC, Santander and The Co-operative Bank make a positive change, enable the headphone capability.

Guest
Phill Hall says:
28 March 2012

This should be a no brainer for the UK banks – realise times are tough and this will be a cost, but how can you prejudice a whole section of society from the convenience of getting access to their money which they’ve decided to deposit with you??? Great PR for the first bank to take the plunge on this one…

Guest

This is a MUST!!!!! I cant believe it is not already in place in this country.

Guest

The blind, like the elderly, are rather vulnerable. While I am keen to see them being as independent as possible, I hope that seeing someone using headphones will not attract muggers.

Guest
Jah Wobble says:
28 March 2012

I don’t understand. Why would using an earphone in one ear when at an ATM make anybody more vulnerable than withdrawing a bundle of cash from over the branch counter, or asking a complete stranger to help them press the right buttons, or taking out and spending cash anywhere for that matter? Yes, if you have sight problems you are vulnerable, but to imply that having fair access to an ATM will make you MORE vulnerable is a little irresponsible I’m afraid.

Guest

A blind person cannot check who is nearby before using a cash dispenser and will be less able to deal with anyone who tries to rob them. I do not see that as irresponsible, but you are entitled to your opinion. I am certainly not opposed to the provision of headphone sockets on ATMs or any help that can be given to anyone with a disability.

Guest

Now, now, play nicely. Actually, Richard (below) has summed up this boo-they’re-behind-you attitude extremely eloquently (to quote):

I want to be able to use any cash machine at any time, like everyone else around me does. It worries me that some people think i’m more vulnerable than a sighted person because that view ignores the life skills that i’ve developed and that i use every minute i’m out and about to decide how to manage risk. There’s a lot of vulnerable people out there sighted and not for one reason or another, short term and long term, but this fact has nothing to do with whether a bank enables the headphone jack in their cash machine or not, or for that matter whether a bank should have a wheelchair ramp coming out of it as surely muggers would be queuing up there too! the main thing for me is for the banks just to fix this problem and we can all get on with our lives.

Guest
Hayley Simons says:
28 March 2012

What every happened to equal opportunities. If the technology already exists, there should be no reason why all the banks can’t implement this.

Guest
Steve Jones says:
28 March 2012

I have a blind friend, who has to ask for help to use cash machines. I think this is a scandal! If I had to ask a passer-by to help draw cash from my account, I can imagine that i would feel much less independent and devalued as an individual. The technology is so simple, and the banks have a responsibility to sort this out quickly. I have been loyal to my bank for over 30 years. If a UK bank introduced this, (and I am not visually impaired – yet!), I would move my business to them – this is such an important principle.

Guest
Kithy says:
28 March 2012

Well done to Suzie. You are speaking on behalf of the 250,000 maybe more who are either blind or partially sighted. Banks need to start using the profits more efficiently. Good luck.

Guest
Claz says:
28 March 2012

We are constantly told to be responsible for security of our financial information as you won’t get any protection from the banks if you aren’t. Yet huge numbers of customers are having to run the risk of sharing their personal information just to get money from the hole in the wall. There is no other option to gain access to your own money if you are visually impaired for the 124 hours a week that banks aren’t open. How long will it be before there is a court case for putting visually impaired people in a vulnerable position. Wonder which bank will truly put its customers first.

Guest

It seems incredulous that banks can put in ATMs with headphone accessibility and not see the value of their use. Why wouldn’t they enable them? What reason are they giving for not enabling them?

Guest

Thanks so much to everyone for posting and supporting this campaign. The wholesale support for implementing this technology indicates exactly why the banks need to get moving as quickly as possible. Barclays and Lloyds should be applauded taking the lead on this. Lets hope RNIB and Suzie can keep up the pressure so RBS, HSBC, Santander and The Co-op do the same.

Guest
T Webb says:
28 March 2012

surely anything that can help the visually impaired is a must,put yourself in thier position.

Guest
Sue says:
28 March 2012

People with special needs should have the same access as able-bodied people so please push for this on their behalf

Guest
Richard says:
29 March 2012

I want to be able to use any cash machine at any time, like everyone else around me does. It worries me that some people think i’m more vulnerable than a sighted person because that view ignores the life skills that i’ve developed and that i use every minute i’m out and about to decide how to manage risk. There’s a lot of vulnerable people out there sighted and not for one reason or another, short term and long term, but this fact has nothing to do with whether a bank enables the headphone jack in their cash machine or not, or for that matter whether a bank should have a wheelchair ramp coming out of it as surely muggers would be queuing up there too! the main thing for me is for the banks just to fix this problem and we can all get on with our lives.

Guest
Mop says:
29 March 2012

There are 2 points I’d like to make.

Firstly, the issue of vulnerability. To use this as an excuse for not providing a service is both arrogant and offensive. Every person should be free decide what level of risk they are comfortable with. To make assumptions like this for others is simply wrong.

The 2nd point that amazes me is that some cash machines already have the jacks installed yet are not operational. This implies that this service comes as standard by the ATM provider and someone at the bank has made a conscious decision to switch off this functionality. Why? Furthermore, on these ATMs, since the hardware is already in place, surely it’s a simple software upgrade to enable them. Now that the banks are aware of the issue, why is this not happening?

Guest
M and P says:
29 March 2012

Thank you for drawing our attention to this disabling problem. Co-operative Bank where are you with your “banging on about fair trade and ethical products” . Lets have some fair products for blind and partially sighted people at YOUR atm’s. HSBC as you are our bank – I will ask for your official stance on this urgent matter. Perhaps we and the Banks should say “there but for the grace of God”.

Guest
Andy Kaye says:
29 March 2012

If we can land man on the moon it really shouldn’t prove beyond the wit of the major high street banks to enable audio for blind and partially sighted customers. Get moving RBS!