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Feb 25, 2012
Focus: Human Rights
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Location: United Kingdom

UK Banks Routinely Practice Discrimination against the Blind, Deaf and Wheelchair Users.

UK banks are routinely discriminating against customers with disabilities, sometimes in humiliating ways, reports the London Times. Following last week's report on the difficulties deaf customers suffer from High Street banks the newspaper was deluged by readers who also suffered such problems. Some of the problems highlighted include lack of access to branches for wheel chair users and a lack of appropriate telephone facilities for deaf and blind customers. One customer, Helen Dolphin, director of policy and campaigns for charity Disabled Motoring UK, who is a quadruple amputee after a bout of meningitis, was told by Natwest to 'use another branch a half mile distance away or do her banking out in the street'. Shockingly wheelchair access to the bank includes no ramp and a step to overcome. Obviously an impossible obstacle for a wheelchair user. She chose to close her account.

With the current policy to close branches in preference to increased use of call centres the banks are legally bound to provide the text relay messaging system for their hard of hearing, deaf and blind customers however the Times received numerous complaints that the text relay system is often unattended and when text messages are answered the staff have not received the training necessary to undertake the customer's request.

A particular problem for blind people is the use of cash machines. In America fully one quarter of cash machines have been adapted to enable a deaf or blind person to use them effectively by plugging in a headset to listen to the 'talking' facility. In the UK the equivalent machine is only available in only on one of every thousand machines.

One shocking instance is that blind-deaf customer Liz Ball who is also a campaigner for Sense, a charity working for changes in the industry, was left without money and a card for two weeks after being told her text call couldn't be taken 'because of the snow'. When she finally received her credit card ten days later it was a standard issue and not the Braille type she needed and had requested. She said that as she was 'used to this sort of thing, it was fortunate that I keep a freezer full of food or I would have starved.'

And it is not only the deaf, blind or physically handicapped who suffer problems. Those with autism are often confused by the welter of literature that finds its way through our mail boxes. Most of us treat the excess literature as a waste of printing material and put them in the trash. However an autism suffer is often confused and exhortations to take out unnecessary loans or cards are completed and returned. Carers request that in special cases such as these the mail shots be stopped but are told that 'no system exists to prevent mailing or phone calls to customers' .

Isn't it time that the banks took care of their customers? After all didn't we help them out by investing billions of public funds when they were in trouble in the financial crisis. The least they could do would be to take care of their customers.

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Posted: Feb 25, 2012 5:32am

 

 
 
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Thom Loveless
, 1, 2 children
United Kingdom
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