ATMs made accessible to visually and physically impaired at S A Guide-Dogs Association
The S A Guide-Dogs Association and Absa have today formalised a relationship that will see Service Dogs undergo dedicated training to assist their owners to make ATM use more accessible. Orientation and Mobility Practitioners, who specialise in training visually impaired people, will be able to train their visually impaired clients to use ATMs in a safe environment.
Increasing safe and secure ATM usage across the differently-abled communities is a priority for both Absa and the association. Given our concerns that physically and visually impaired customers have around ATM usage, and the ever-present risk of fraudsters, this is the latest step in improving and increasing self-service banking usage in South Africa.
“As a bank with more than 8 000 ATMs across South Africa, we are constantly looking to make the experience more accessible for customers from all walks of life. From multiple languages on ATMs, braille to audio prompts, we have been on a constant journey to improve Absa’s self-service channels. Our latest partnership with the S A Guide-Dogs Association will have long-term benefits for physically and visually impaired customers using ATMs, regardless of who they bank with,” said Tshiwela Mhlantla, Managing Executive: Physical Channels, Retail and Business Bank at Absa.
As part of the partnership, Absa, with the support of Metal Techniques and Bytes Technology installed a fully functional ATM at the association’s headquarters in Paulshof, to assist with the training of Service Dogs and visually impaired people.
“Security concerns have always been a major impediment to ATM usage for the physically and visually impaired community. As an organisation, the S A Guide-Dogs Association aims to enhance the mobility and independence of people with visual, physical or developmental needs. The effort of inserting an ATM card into the machine and keying in the PIN, can be exhausting for a wheelchair bound individual. The act of a Service Dog retrieving the card and giving it to them makes the task less onerous. Having access to our own ATM will allow us to teach our clients and dogs in a relaxed, controlled environment without disturbing others. We can teach our visually impaired clients and train our Service Dogs in a controlled environment,” said Vernon Tutton, Executive Director of the S A Guide-Dogs Association.
S A Guide-Dogs Association employs six qualified Orientation and Mobility Practitioners who provide long cane and skills of daily living training to the visually impaired in the community. The association is currently training nine Orientation and Mobility Practitioner students who will qualify at the end of 2020. The students will undergo training on how to teach ATM skills to their clients as part of that training programme. Clients from the community, who require training on ATM skills, can be brought to the premises to learn and practise the skills required. The ATM facility will be used on and ongoing basis to train future students and clients.
Our deepest appreciation goes to Absa for their support, and for empowering us to train clients and Service Dogs, which will ultimately assist customers from all the major banks, not just Absa,” he said.
To ensure maximum flexibility and relevance, the nature of training will be enhanced and fine-tuned in line with real-time insights from the initial programmes. Feedback from customers and the dogs’ uptake of the training will be closely monitored to ensure that this is meaningful for both ATM users and their working Service Dogs.
In addition, Absa will analyse first-hand customer experiences and feedback to inform ongoing enhancements and functionality on ATMs, to further improve the experience for visually impaired customers.
“Making a meaningful contribution to the communities in which we operate, particularly the vulnerable (and differently-abled), is of paramount importance. Gaining insights and learnings is critical in tailoring our offerings to cater for all our customers. Absa is proud to support the training of both Service Dogs as well as the blind community on the use of ATMs,” noted Mhlantla.