Managing our finances is a personal and important part of life that everyone should have to right to do independently. Blind and visually impaired people are no different and we use ATMs like everyone else, but have you ever wondered how?
Talking cash machines, how do they work?
Some cash machines have a jack for headphones. It’s usually on the right hand side somewhere below the slot where you insert your bank card. On some machines the jack is on a wedge that sticks out. On others it is flush to the machine and has a round button next to it. Any standard headphones will work, but some banks will give you a pair you can keep to use with cash machines if you don’t have a pair. I prefer to only use one earbud so I can hear the machine but can also be aware of what is happening around me. As soon as you plug in your headphones, a voice will read through the options on screen and direct you to the appropriate buttons for your choices. This makes managing your money at a cash machine more secure, as you don’t need help from a friend or a member of staff. It also eliminates the need to memorise sequences of options and locations of buttons as many of us have done historically.
Where can I find one?
Not all cash machines are speech enabled, but I live in a small town in the north of England and have usually managed to find one fairly easily. If your local Post Office has a cash machine, it is likely to a talking one. Many, though not all banks offer talking cash machines. Barclays were pioneers in accessible cash machines in the UK and now over 75% of their ATMs are speech enabled. According to the RNIB, Barclays, Lloyds, Halifax, Sainsbury’s Bank, TSB, Nationwide, Santander and PayPoint (in convenience stores) provide talking ATMs in most cases. Other banks are also following suit, so hopefully talking cash machines will become the norm. To find one near you, you can use the LINK Accessible app which is available from Apple App Store or the Google Play App Store. Just select ‘audio assistance’ in your preferences and it will list talking ATMs in your area.
What if there isn’t a talking cash machine?
With banks employing fewer staff in fewer branches, blind and visually impaired people do sometimes have to use a cash machine that isn’t speech enabled to manage their money or withdraw cash. Where a talking cash machine isn’t available, standard cash machines offer some tactile markings that help with accessibility. These include a raised marker on the number 5 (which makes it possible to locate the other numbers), a raised circle on the ‘OK’ button and a raised cross on the ‘cancel’ button. Using a non accessible cash machine without vision feels risky as it relies on either assistance from another person, or memorising the sequence of options and locations of buttons.
Talking cash machines mean more than the ability to withdraw cash
Imagine for a moment you had to use a cash machine to manage your money, with your eyes closed. Do you ask someone for help? This feels like a necessary but uncomfortable invitation for someone to access your private matters and in some ways giving up your independence, but what other options are there? Memorising sequences of options and locations of buttons feels risky. What if you press the wrong button? It’s a dilemma that has been faced by blind and visually impaired people for years. The growing number of talking cash machines in the UK is encouraging. It provides hope for the future that everyone will one day have the right to manage their money how they wish, independently and with the same level of privacy as everyone else.