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Making money talk – we need more talking ATMs

Talking ATM with headphone socket

The ability to access your cash whenever you want is something most of us take for granted. But what if you couldn’t see the ATMs on-screen instructions? The RNIB is here to talk talking cash machines.

Yes, you can make withdrawals over the branch counter, but what if it’s outside of banking hours? What if your bank is not within easy distance? And besides, just because you can’t see the ATM screen clearly, why should you have to live in the 1970s when the rest of us are enjoying modern convenience?

A solution is to introduce talking cash machines.

The UK’s behind with talking ATMs

Don’t be alarmed. Talking cash machines don’t blurt out the innermost secrets of your current account for all to hear. You don’t even have to answer it back. All you do is plug in your standard mobile or MP3 player headphones and follow the spoken instruction using the keypad to navigate through the options. What could be simpler?

In September 2011, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) launched our Make Money Talk campaign to encourage banks to install talking ATMs.

At that date the UK had around 64,000 cash machines, but only 69 talking ones. Compare that to the likes of the USA, with over 100,000 talking cash machines (or around one in three). In fact, the UK was way behind countries such as Australia, Canada, India and Turkey.

Banks start listening to calls for talking ATMs

Northern Bank was the first UK bank to introduce a talking ATM way back in 2005, and by September 2011 they had 57 of the UK’s 69 talking machines.

We were delighted when Barclays became the first of the so-called big five to roll out talking ATMs, when in November 2012 it switched on audio facilities in over 80% of its machines. The more alert amongst you will have noticed that the Co-operative Bank has now also begun to introduce them, and the likes of RBS, Lloyds and Nationwide have all announced that they will soon be following suit.

At RNIB we hear too many stories of people asking passing strangers to help them find and remove their cash. To limit the amount of times they visit their branch, many blind and partially sighted people have been withdrawing large sums and walking around with wads of notes about their person. By denying blind and partially-sighted people a simple convenience, like the ability to use an ATM, we force them to take these huge risks with their personal security.

So next time you speak to your bank or building society, please ask them when they will be introducing talking ATMs. Let’s put an end to this particular form of inequality.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is by Steve Webb from the Royal National Institute of Blind People. All opinions expressed here are Steve’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


This has not been thought through. It might work with machines inside a branch of the bank but with outdoor machines it would not be long before someone put a matchstick in the headphone socket, preventing it from being used.

It would be better to use a simple, inexpensive device that pick up the message if held in close proximity to a marked point on the ATM. For those that carry around MP3 players, models could be developed to do the job.

Jane says:
29 May 2013

This is a great campaign and will bring independence to so many blind and partially sighted people. Being able to get cash out is something that most of us take for granted. I know talking ATM’s work in many other countries and it’s about time we had them in the UK as well.

You’ve talked about helping blind or the partially sighted use ATM via voice instructions, but how do they then see enough on the screen to be able to push the right buttons? Not being in that category I’m finding it hard to see how this is a good thing and can only see negatives with cash points, as I mentioned above. Can you explain further please.

And while they’re looking to improve ATMs being over 6 foot tall the silly little button/arrows fixed to the side of the screen don’t actually line up with the options, making me almost get down on my knees to use them.

If it works well in the US then I do not see why it should not work here.

I’m sure the banks will be able to provide a spoken guide to the buttons on the cash machine, if it’s required. Blind people are well able to use smart phones and tablets so a cash machine will be a doddle for them,

We recently discussed ATMs that charge fees for transactions: https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/fee-paying-cash-machine-cashpoint-charge/

It would be good if new ones were ‘talking’ machines and those registered blind could use them free of charge.

Brian says:
29 May 2013

This may work, but it needs to be well thought out some more ,as it may work for indoor ATMs not sure about outside ones as they are more at risk of someone putting a matchstick in the headphone socket or my other worry would be if someone came up behind me & took my earphones & can listen to what I was typing in like PIN numbers etc,as it stands some of the outside ATMs need a good clean including the screen or even being vandalised these are my worries ,but needs to be thought out some more but it is a really good idea

Thelma Adshead says:
30 May 2013

I do hope more Banks install the talking ATMs, preferably within the bank, I always use an internal ones for security. I also hope the Banks will hold training sessions for Blind people to become familiar with the new ATMs, I can imagine the frustration to the user and also to other people while we try our hand at the new machines. By the way I’ve been registered Blind for 20+ years, and i’m Secretary of The Visionaries Blind & Vision Impaired self-help group from Leigh Lanc’s. visit us at http://www.visionvip.net