Shut up and take my money!!
In a new BBC article published by Ouch! this week, there is discussion about how to make banking safer and easier for people with disabilities. After reading the article, I thought I’d write a blog post on how I manage my money as a visually impaired person, any difficulties I’ve had – and how I overcome them.
I’ve had some good experiences with banking and managing money as a disabled person. The bank which I use send me my bank statements in large print which is very helpful. My bank also provides statement details online which is great because I simply zoom in on my adapted computer to view them.
This means that my Mum or a friend doesn’t have to read them for me, meaning that I don’t need to reveal my personal banking details to anyone. The BBC article says that if you bank with a disability, often there is at least some involvement from another person to help you bank effectively. I have had to have this, but more on that later.
Also by going in branch and using my cane, I’ve found that staff are always helpful and adaptive to my needs. Sometimes I ring ahead to let them know that I’m coming in and which service(s) I’m going to need assistance with – helpful for them, helpful for me. Bonus!
Although there are improvements to be made to the banking system, the changes that have come about over the last few years have meant that I am more able to manage my money independently than I would have done say, ten years ago. My bank’s website, for example, is great and I find it really easy to sort out transfers and payments on it.
There are certain things that, as a visually impaired person, I find hard to access when it comes to managing my money. The BBC article says that the ‘chip and PIN‘ service is often inaccessible to disabled customers – for example, due to mobility issues they have to tell someone else the PIN number so they can type it in for them, therefore taking away their privacy.
Luckily for me, the ‘chip and PIN’ service hasn’t caused too many problems – when I first opened a bank account at 16, my Mum showed me how to use the ‘chip and PIN’ service – she showed me what the keypads were like and how to find the tactile markers on them and now luckily, I know how to use them myself and don’t need this help anymore.
It would be good if in shops there was the same keypad every time when you enter your PIN to pay by card, because often I feel the buttons and the layout can be different on each keypad. Sometimes it can be difficult to read the amount displayed on the keypad, at least without looking ridiculously closely so this can be a challenge sometimes. When in a restaurant and paying the bill, adding tips on handheld devices gets even trickier – often there is someone else with me to help me in these situations, but it would be nice to be able to do it myself.
I also sometimes struggle to see which button corresponds to which option on the cashpoint machine’s screens, but I always manage to work it out.
There are times at the bank or at the shops where people ask you to write your signature (receipts/statements at the bank, prescriptions at the doctors, certain forms in shops). This has always been a difficult thing for me to do, as while I can write legibly, the boxes on the forms are often so small I find it really difficult to see them. I often carry around a black gel pen so that I can see the ink better too, but if I don’t have one then the pens that are used in these places (often biros or similar) can be hard for me to see. Signing for shopping deliveries is even worse because they use a new electronic pad and stylus. I always manage to write something but it never looks anything like my signature at all! Some banks do offer signature guides to try to make this easier, or they can be bought – I’m going to have to invest in one I think!
Receipts can be a problem too. They are printed in very small writing and are hard to read. I can look very closely but this can give me headaches so if I’m not sure about something printed on one then I ask someone I trust to read it for me. But they are not always available and it would be nice to have a bit more privacy with this the few times I need to check a receipt.
I do a lot of ‘grab cane and ask’ in shops too when I need to find things, and shop in Westfield in Stratford, where I book assistance online and a member of staff helps you get to the shops you need to go to and find what you want to buy. This service has been a life saver! I still prefer to shop online with something like PayPal though, because I find shopping quite stressful with all the crowds – let alone finding the shop in the first place! Trying to read the amount on the chip and PIN reader, and finding change can also cause problems. Notes I can distinguish relatively easily because of the different colours, but with coins it can take a while which can hold others up and make me a bit apprehensive. Because of this I’m happier with my debit card, shopping online or to shop with someone with me.
Generally, I feel safe banking and using my card and money to shop and manage my life. However, when I use cashpoints I sometimes worry that I might be seen as visually impaired and taken advantage of – as I could be in any situation, but when it involves money I worry a little bit more. It’s never happened before and I hope it won’t, but it has crossed my mind a few times.
There have been a lot of changes recently that make banking and money management easier for those with disabilities – Oyster card is one example which is a good solution to public transport travel. Contactless payments is also something that helps a lot of people – but I worry about the security risks, particularly with my very reduced sight and so refuse to use a contactless payment card. Talking cashpoints are another step in the right direction. Hopefully these changes will continue and banking and money management can be made even easier for everyone.
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