Improving Banking Accessibility for Deaf People (Part 2)

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Last year I was looking for a bank to open a new account with. When choosing a bank, many customers’ priorities may be; high interest rates, reward schemes or good customer service. For me, my main filter is accessibility.

Due to previous problems I had with my original bank; HSBC – read it here, I felt that I needed a bank with a high street presence to enable a face to face encounter if necessary, as well as good accessibility.

After intensive research, I decided that Barclays looked my best bet. The Accessibility Statement on their website looked promising. I felt confident reading about their commitment to ‘become the most accessible financial services provider’. Many of my D/deaf contacts and friends also advocated Barclays.

Setting up an account

I made an appointment at a large branch in my nearest city for a face to face meeting to ensure they would meet my needs. It was important for me to be assured that I could access it before opening the account, namely assurance that I would be able to access Telephone Banking through a third party. Once I had this guarantee I went on to open an account.

I then had a lovely meeting with the personal banking representative, explaining previous problems and my individual requirements as a deaf customer.

Coming to a resolution

After opening the account, my Mother and I tried out telephone banking. Unfortunately it didn’t work. The staff informed her I couldn’t access my account through a Third Party which was disappointing at first, but I was hopeful we could find a workable compromise.

Although at times, the process appeared time-consuming, frustrating and long winded, Barclays and I reached a very satisfactory resolution.

To my followers and supporters, it seemed at times that there was little I could report when we were proceeding behind the scenes to resolve the issue. The main challenges both banks and customers face are security, data protection and accessibility, all equally important, to achieve a solution involves close regard to them all.

It soon became apparent that Barclays accepted the predicament many D/deaf people face, and wanted to work together to establish a method which would work for both parties, which was secure. To my delight, they developed new technology to alleviate this problem!

New Lipspeaker Service

I worked closely with Barclays to bring out their new Lipspeaker Service, whereby a customer can contact them with a Lipspeaker speaking on their behalf.

For this to work, you have to register your details with them beforehand so they can add a ‘confidential care indicator’.

This means when making a phone call to Barclays with your Lipspeaker, you will have to ‘pass some initial security questions, you’ll then be sent a one-time passcode by text message to the mobile telephone number (they) have for you. You simply relay that back to (their) team and (they are then) happy to help.’ This means that no one is able to access my bank account without me being present, therefore it is secure.

More info: https://www.barclays.co.uk/accessibility/hearing-or-speech/

Meeting the Team!

Before the news of this technology was released, I was invited to Barclays Head Office to meet with the two wonderful staff members who were instrumental in bringing out this change, to try the system out for the first time. It worked perfectly. We had a positive and productive meeting discussing D/deaf awareness in general.

Safe but accessible

Even though it took a while to resolve, I was happy that Barclays took my issue seriously and took steps to overcome the barrier I faced. This new service allows both parties to be satisfied, both securely and accessibly.

No solution can claim to be perfect. I have to always make sure my phone is charged and I have a signal and the process takes a little longer than a conventional phone call, but as we all know, having a disability means things can take longer, it’s something we accept…  as long as it solves the problem then that’s all that matters.

My main inspiration and drive was to improve accessibility for other deaf people and I’m happy that Barclays was willing to come to a workable compromise, helping us to become more independent. We are hopeful more D/deaf people will take advantage of this significant provision to overcome this common problem.

Moving forward

This experience has shown me that there are organisations willing to invest the time and effort to make services more accessible for customers with additional needs. Even though I wasn’t sure big banks would listen to little old me… perseverance and patience paid off.

I am extremely heartened to know that Barclays is committed to become more accessible with a view to meeting the needs of its D/deaf customers.

My advice

The advice I would give is; if you feel a service is not accessible, approach the organisation, explain your difficulty and ask if they can provide an accessible alternative. Hopefully they will listen as Barclays did, and work with you towards a mutually beneficial solution.

I feel proud of this achievement and secure in the knowledge that change for the better is always possible.

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