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See It My Way column by Siobhan Meade and Mac

PUBLISHED: 09:54 14 September 2012

Siobhan Meade with her guide dog Mac.

Picture: James Bass

Siobhan Meade with her guide dog Mac. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

MONEY! Money! Money!

Here in the UK there are 63,000 cash machines or ATMs, and there are only 69 in the whole country that can talk. Yes only 69! In America blind and partially sighted people can plug their ear phones into one in every four machines, and hear a computerised voice which guides them through transactions and what is happening on the screen. Allowing them to access their own money whenever and where ever they desire.

The first to have launched a talking ATM was Northern Bank back in 2005. They have said it has been a successful experience and their customers like them.

Following on from this success, a major step forward has recently been taken from two of our most popular banks, Lloyds and Barclays which have announced their support in committing to roll out talking ATMs towards the end of this year. This certainly is encouraging news for their customers.

As a long serving customer of Lloyds, I am delighted I will soon be able to access my own money, and not be restricted to their opening hours. Statistically research has revealed only 11pc of blind and partially sighted people use cash machines and out of that 11pc that say they use machines, over half say it is difficult or virtually impossible to use them: because they cannot see to read the screen; so talking ATMs are the only way for these users to access their own money.

In my opinion, the banks know the answer. Technology is there. It’s already installed in other countries. America, Australia and in Pakistan. The hardware is there. All they need to do is install the software and enable it.

The RNIB has slammed Paralympics sponsor Visa for failing to provide “Talking cash machines” facility for blind and partially sighted people at the Olympic park. Visa had committed to installing upgrades to cash machines around the park, which would provide blind and partially sighted people with audio facilities.

The RNIB threatened legal action under the equalities act earlier this year. However, legal proceedings were halted after Visa pledged to adapt two of the eight on-site cashpoints at talking ATMs.

It is understood Visa failed to make the essential upgrades. The RNIB says it is “extremely disappointed” after working with LOCOG for the past three years to ensure the Olympic park was fully accessible for blind and partially sighted people.

Steve Winyard, head of policy and campaigns at RNIB, says: “RNIB has always campaigned for the right of blind and partially sighted people to have control of their own money and to be able to access it just like a sighted person.”

Visa says it was “not feasible” to add audio functionalilty to the cash points in the short timeframe after RNIB raised the issue in June.

A representative for Visa Europe says: “Visa has been a global sponsor for over 25 years and takes seriously the responsibility to provide robust, safe and secure ATM provision for all visitors to both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Visa is committed to addressing the needs of blind and partially sighted people in using ATMs in the UK and will work with our member banks and RNIB going forward to improve accessibility.”

To back talking ATMs, contact the campaign team at RNIB.

Follow me on Twitter @sibbymeade

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