How Some Banks Are Unknowingly Punishing Blind Customers

Phill Fernandes, a member of our Gnomies community and a visually impaired geek in his own right, recently brought a story to my attention involving his banking institution and how it has made his life more difficult.

We depend on companies we work with to cater to our needs to its best ability. Banks are where we keep our money, our precious possessions, and in some cases our trust to adhere to agreements involving our vehicles and homes. In recent years, the banking world has undergone a considerable amount of scrutiny for how they handle funds and determine risk for loans.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons for financial institutions to learn is how to cater to its customer’s needs. Every customer is different, and some don’t have the ability to work with the tools the local branch gives them.

Phill is visually impaired. He may not completely blind, but he does require some assistive technologies to handle tasks that most people would consider trivial. Reading a textbook requires the use of a video magnifier, special software makes it possible for him to see and interpret what is happening on his computer screen, and just making his way around town can be a difficult task when you have trouble seeing things that other folks can’t miss.

His story is not unique, though it should stand as a cautionary tale to business owners that make assumptions about someone’s abilities based on their appearance or ignorance of a situation. The problem he faced was that he didn’t “look” blind to the teller, and as such did not receive the same level of support someone wearing sunglasses or using a white cane might.

Using EZ-DepositSlip

“As I always do before leaving for the bank, I made a deposit slip using software called EZ-DepositSlip.” Phill said, recalling the events leading up to his first deposit attempt with this particular branch of his local bank. He continued, “Instead of having to fill out the deposit slip manually, this software allow me to input my account information once and then each time I need to generate a slip all I have to do is select my account and then add each check as a record and then it as simple as clicking print.”

EZ-DepositSlip is a piece of software that creates a deposit slip dynamically. You fill out the bank’s information, and it create the deposit slip for you. Phill is unable to read the small print on the bank’s official deposit slips. For this reason, he and many other visually impaired individuals depend on large-print checks and software such as this to complete tasks such as these.

The very purpose of a deposit slip is to give the tellers clear, accurate information in a written form so that deposits are attributed to the correct account. Companies commonly use printed deposit slips made in-house to save time and money, and banks generally appreciate the savings on their end in terms of paper and time spent interpreting handwriting. In fact, QuickBooks and Quicken are among the most commonly-used tools for generating deposit slips.

EZ-DepositSlip is an award-winning software solution that does a remarkably good job at printing deposit slips that are accepted at many financial institutions around the world. Account numbers are printed in the same locations they would be at the local branch, and every key piece of information required by Phill’s bank is present on the slip.

Making the Deposit

“You can’t be blind.” These were the words spoken to Phill during his first encounter with this particular teller. She looked at his pre-printed deposit slip which he had used several times before with no trouble, and asked him why he hadn’t used one of their own deposit slips. He took a moment to explain that the process of filling out the standard deposit slips is difficult, if not impossible, due to the fact that he is unable to read the small print on them.

After some hesitation, the teller rewrote his slip on a standard one and accepted the deposit.

The next month, Phill returned to the branch to make his regular deposit. This time, he was attended to by a different teller. Still using the EZ-DepositSlip software as he had many times before, he presented the teller with the documentation required to make a deposit.

“She looked at the deposit slip and addressed the other teller, asking if she had seen it before. The other teller, which was the one I spoke to before, said that it was a photo copy and the bank would not accept it.” Phill recalled, “The teller that was attending to me rewrote the deposit slip and deposited the money.”

While he was never denied service at his branch, he was left with the feeling that he was somehow doing wrong by using software he felt made both his and the teller’s lives easier. Information was printed in a clear, concise fashion that met all the required standards of an American financial institution.

The Failures of the Bank

In Phill’s story, the bank failed in several ways. While he wasn’t technically denied service, which would be a big deal and also a potentially big problem for the bank, he was left with the impression that he wasn’t allowed to use software to assist him with filling out a deposit slip. His bank didn’t provide any other means for him to fill one out, so it was either that or not fill one out at all, as far as he was concerned.

The bank also failed in customer service. While everyone in the service industry has had a frustrating day here or there with customers’ individual needs, it’s important to keep in mind that disabilities are a very tricky situation in this department. As a business, you are required to do things like provide wheel chair access and other assistive measures for customers in need. While someone may not appear to be blind, they may have a severe visual impairment that makes the use of standard documentation difficult. For someone to go out of their way to provide this documentation, despite the issue, is a matter that should be welcomed and not met with scrutiny and resentment on the part of the staff.

What Can Banks Do?

Phill advised, “There are two solutions I see and they are having the bank specifically designed software for their clients or just allow them to use the self-generated slips.”

Banks have made great strides in recent years to improve accessibility to the visually impaired. ATMs are now regularly equipped with headphone jacks and braille buttons to make it possible for the blind to use. Some banks even provide specially-designed deposit slips printed in a large font for visually impaired customers to see.

Training staff on the differences between blind and visually impaired customers can also make a world of difference. Again, Phill wasn’t denied service, but he was given the impression that he was inconveniencing the staff by being disabled. As this article is about a broader situation, we’re not naming the financial institution in question here.

What ideas do you have to improve banking for those with visual disabilities? If you have an idea please leave it in the comments below.

17 comments On How Some Banks Are Unknowingly Punishing Blind Customers

  • Mohamedabdulahi

    Every bank should invest in training their employees for Dies kind of situations.
    I really think it’s horrible that some people take their ability to read and write for grand.
    Please take a minute to think about this comment!

  • So sorry to hear about the horrible experience.  That sounds like a failure of the bank or management to properly train its staff.  As far as any ideas go, well, I recently saw that video on Google’s “Glass Project”.  That got me thinking on how technology could potentially be used for someone who has difficulty reading small print by possibly installing an OCR app (optical character recognition) within the glasses. Or they could help people with negotiating potentially hazardous variations in walking surfaces such as curbs and uneven sidewalk with audio direction or something.

    • I’d try that out =)

    • elle: The OCR app is a good idea for those who are visually impaired but what about those who are completely blind?

      • That’s a good question.  Once the OCR converts images to words, there are apps that can read the text to you.  While I’m guessing it’ll probably never stand out as the better alternative to braille, the notable thing about those glasses is that they appear to judge rough distances (even if it’s mostly satellite based).  There are glasses already in existence that can signal the presence of close objects (without satellite assistance).  I don’t know how much further technology has advanced for that.  Would be pretty cool if it does, however.

  • I agree with elle, and would like to add to it. Do I understand correctly that different banks in the same country use different deposit slips? It seems a no brainer that 1 standard deposit slip used throughout the country would make things easier.

  • I found this artical really great, I feel like I’m not alone now haha!!  

    In a large shopping area near me, there are around 15 to 20 ATM machines with in the area, I can only use 3 of them because the text text is just about large enough for me to make out & fingers crossed that at least one of them is working.  

    When depositing money into my account, the teller always has a moan that I haven’t filled out a slip, so I tell them “I cant read it” so they write it out for me.  I’ll try EZ to see if my bank are happy with that.

    Chip-n-pin, they’re annoying, tiny screen with tiny font, and they wonder why i havent entered my PIN yet.

  • I don’t see any problem with depositing funds. The money is going into the bank, so why are they being so strict as to how you make the deposit? If there is a problem, the money is still in the bank, and can remain there until the problem is straightened out. The bank keeps a copy of the deposit, and if they don’t, they sure should.

    The bank could even make software to make the deposit slips for their banks, and allow account holders to use the software as an alternative to using deposit slips furnished by the bank, cutting the banks cost of operation.

  • Bllody banks can’t trust them with anything these days. 

  • I’ve never heard of EZ-DepositeSlip before. I think I’ll check it out, although I really do more withdrawals  than deposits, and I usually just get someone to help me fill out the slip. I’m assuming there isn’t something similar for withdrawal slips (probably not because it would be too untrustworthy, but what if I signed it and showed ID?)

  • Regarding the creation of software: 
    1. Are they reinventing the wheel? He is already using software designed for that purpose.
    2. If the software is going to be better than what he is using now, they had better be sure the 
        software is not just focused on their bank alone.

  • maybe it was because of the micr recording that is used? I recall that a magnetic ink is used on deposit tickets so when encoded or scanned later in the process it is deposited correctly. Typically the individual does not have the proper printer ink when printed off the computer unlike business who might provide their own. just a theory however….

  • maybe it was because of the micr recording that is used? I recall that a magnetic ink is used on deposit tickets so when encoded or scanned later in the process it is deposited correctly. Typically the individual does not have the proper printer ink when printed off the computer unlike business who might provide their own. just a theory however….

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