Touch screens forget the blind
Malta’s two major banks, Bank of Valletta and HSBC, have promised to improve their ATM service for the blind, as complaints came in of the new BOV touch screen machines being harder for blind people to use.
“The new touch screen technology means that we cannot use the ATMs any longer,” a 39-year-old blind man from Sliema told The Times.
“I needed urgently to get money on a weekend in Valletta. When I went to use the machine at the Embassy complex in Valletta I couldn’t use it as the touch screen ATM has no speech software,” another 56-year-old woman complained.
The issue has already been taken up with the banks and the National Commission for Disabled Persons (KNDP) almost a year ago. However, so far there has been no improvement.
When contacted, KNPD President Joe Camilleri admitted that the issue had not been given top priority as the commission was still trying to quantify the problem.
“As you can imagine we have a lot of problems to solve and discuss and this is just one of them. For the time being we are still trying to quantify how big the problem is,” he said.
On the other hand, the two major banks said they were conscious of the problem, even though they did not specify whether they had taken any action to solve it.
The problem seems to be related more to the BOV ATMs than to those of HSBC as the latter has no touch screen technology yet.
Though admitting that the situation at the BOV touch screen ATMs was not compatible with the needs of the blind, a spokesman said the bank was working on a solution.
“Although this technology has not yet evolved to cater for the visually impaired, the bank is working on enhancing the software so that these ATMs are equipped with alternative user interface that uses voice and Braille,” the bank said.
The bank said it was impor-tant that the issue be kept in perspective, as out of 79 ATM sites in Malta and Gozo only 11 do not have accessibility for the blind, two of which are drive-thru locations.
HSBC is also promising an improvement in its ATM service for the blind.
“While the entire bank’s new ATM network has inbuilt features for the visually impaired, the bank is planning to develop further its ATM speech software,” a spokesman said.
HSBC is planning to introduce these enhancements in 2013.