Blind World Magazine

Finally, user-friendly ATMs for the blind.

September 12, 2005.
Australian IT - Australia.

PEOPLE with poor vision will have better access to automatic teller machines following technology upgrades at three of Australia's major banks.

ANZ Bank, St George Bank and the Commonwealth Bank are in the midst of autoteller upgrades that will make the machines easier to use for blind and visually impaired people.

Following the upgrades, a larger number of autotellers will be fitted with audio features that convert text into speech, making them easier for those with visual handicaps to use.

Vision Australia, recently formed from the merger of three state-based organisations, said organisations of blind people had been lobbying for better access to ATMs since the late 1990s, when banks introduced fees for over-the-counter transactions.

Vision Australia policy and advocacy general manager Michael Simpson said banks agreed to drop the transaction fee for those with disabilities but they'd been slow to update their ATMs.

"They've taken much longer than we would have hoped, but they've all claimed that while the technology has been there the programming to manage the hardware has been problematic.

"Really, it's just a matter of application and putting the resources into it," Mr Simpson said.

An ANZ spokesperson said it expected to audio-enable about two-thirds of about 1300 autotellers by 2006, and to have all of its machines converted by 2007.

The Commonwealth Bank said it was about a third of the way through upgrading autotellers at its 1000 branches.

St George said it was halfway through a national autoteller roll-out that would replace its machines with newer, audio-enabled models.

Access to autotellers for blind people had been patchy, with banks limiting the number of audio-enabled machines or the types of audio transactions available from them, Mr Simpson said.

"It has been a considerable problem up until we started to get audio-enabled autotellers.

"With everything being visually driven, a blind person just couldn't use an autoteller with any confidence," Mr Simpson said.

Vision Australia cited online banking security as the next major challenge it faced in convincing banks to offer blind people the level of service that others expected.

Two-factor security authentication tests for online banking, such as security tokens, would make internet banking difficult for visually impaired users, he said.

Source URL:,7204,16580225%5E15321%5E%5Enbv%5E15306,00.html.

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