/ 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.

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.

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!

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!

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!

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?

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!!

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.

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.

john mccolgan says:
27 March 2012

Typical of RBS, yet another reason I changed banks

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.

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.

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.

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”

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.

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!!!!

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.

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

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…

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

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.

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.

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.

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.