It's hard enough getting money out of a bank at the best of times, but with blindness it can sometimes be ten times worse.
With financial need driving me on, I decided to try my luck with a talking automatic teller machine. I hadn't brought ear phones but the local manager was most helpful in supplying a pair.
The audio began immediately to take me through the keys functions with ease and clarity. The cancel, clear and enter were also marked with raised symbols. I entered my pin number, selected the number two for savings and amazingly enough my hand was soon filled with hard cash. Moreover the machine could check out my balance. Thankfully I had a few dollars left in the cupboard.
Nick Allan from Vision Australia suggests the presence of an ear phone jack on an ATM does not necessarily mean the unit provides audio output. It can be a matter of hit or miss with a machine.
He also observes that in a noisy street, instructions on how to use the machine cannot be easily heard through earphones.
The major banks say they are committed to providing access for their customers in order to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. For over a decade they have rolled out talking ATMs. The ANZ bank, for example, says it has enabled 1700 out of 2000 ATMs to talk to customers.
But sometimes a range of differing technologies can confuse a customer. Because ATMs are made by a range of companies, layout of key functions can vary across differing models.
In 2009 Vision Australia drew attention to the need for those with a vision impairment to easily access ATMs. It is not fair if they can only easily access another bank's ATM, and are then charged an extra access fee for the privilege. A person can find out where talking ATMs are by visiting the bank's website or calling customer service .
Commitment to accessibility
For Deaf people, telephone typewriters (TTYs) can provide access to banks via the telephone. Karen Lloyd from Deaf Australia says banks should foot the cost of access including employing Australian Sign Language (Auslan) interpreters to help people discuss their financial needs.
Some banks do this but it is not consistent across the banking industry. It should be, says Karen.
Banks are committed to making internet banking accessible with text to speech screen reading software for the benefit of those with a vision impairment.
The major banks provide facilities for people who use wheelchairs. Concierge assistance may be offered for people with low mobility and low counters may be available at wheelchair level. Attempts are made to site ATMs away from inside locations such as at the top of stairs.
There may still be room for improvement for banks to be more accessible. For me, it is good to know that in the meantime I can still walk away from my local bank having extracted legal cash.
Tell us of any good or bad experiences you have had accessing banks. What do you think?