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Debit card for the blind or partially sighted

Last Edit: 12/11/18

Banks have a range of technologies that help the blind or partially sighted access their services. One of the most important parts of banking is the debit card linked to a customers current account. Some high street banks -- Natwest, HSBC and Barclays -- have debit cards specifically designed to help blind or partially sighted customers. Each of these banks tends to differ in how they design their debit cards for the visually impaired.

The Natwest debit card is worthy of a special mention because it was developed with, and is also accredited by, the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

Natwest debit card designed for the blind and partially sighted.
(Pictured: Natwest debit card designed for the blind and partially sighted)

A debit card designed for the blind or partially sighted obviously needs to be paired with a cash machine (ATM) that is designed for the visually impaired. Lloyds bank has stated that it is currently replacing its older cash machines with Talking ATMs, and Barclays has audio cash machines (also referred to as audio cash machines, talking ATMs or TATMs) that have won a Technology 4 Good Award and Exemplar Service Award. RBS has also introduced talking ATMs at the following banks it operates: Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Coutts, Ulster North and Ulster South. One of the first questions that is posed about talking ATMs, is how do they maintain security if they are broadcasting audio about a customers account? Blind or partially sighted customers will need to use headphones ( typically a 3.5mm jack plug) to insert into the audio output socket on the front of the talking ATM. To find the audio output socket, or card insert, the talking ATM should have braille labels. Talking ATMs allow customers to access the same services as a standard ATM would: check the account balance; withdraw cash; withdraw cash with a printed receipt; a mini statement with recent transactions; and the option to withdraw emergency cash. With Lloyds stating that they are replacing older ATMs with talking ATMs, it would be interesting to know how many high street bank branches have talking ATMs, and what the projections are for every bank branch to have a talking ATM; I am afraid I have come across no information -- from any bank -- about the amount of talking ATMs they currently have in operation.

Alongside debit cards and ATMs, banks should also provide support for the visually impaired when it comes to: correspondence (produced in Braille); correspondence in audio form; branch signage that has a colour contrast for the partially sighted; cheque templates with Braille instructions; large print cheque books and pay-in books; telephone banking; note gauges to to identify the size of the bank note (£5, £10, £20 and £50); and strong colour contrasts on their websites for the partially sighted. Each bank differs in how they support their blind or partially sighted customer, but Natwest, HSBC, and Barclays tend to provide all the accessibility sight services mentioned on this page.