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Opinion  |  Social Affairs

Which Bank? – Bring It On Mr Treasurer


2 August 2017 at 11:01 am
Graeme Innes
The roll out of a new electronic funds transfer (EFTPOS) machine by the Commonwealth bank is eroding the long-fought battle for independence of hundreds of thousands of vision impaired Australians, writes disability advocate Graeme Innes.


Graeme Innes | 2 August 2017 at 11:01 am


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Which Bank? – Bring It On Mr Treasurer
2 August 2017 at 11:01 am

The roll out of a new electronic funds transfer (EFTPOS) machine by the Commonwealth bank is eroding the long-fought battle for independence of hundreds of thousands of vision impaired Australians, writes disability advocate Graeme Innes.

It was seven degrees in Canberra when my colleague dropped me off outside my hotel at 9.30 pm last Wednesday night. I had been at meetings all day, and lectured at the Australian Catholic University that night. After a great dinner at a Greek restaurant I just wanted a good night’s sleep.

But the Commonwealth bank had other ideas. I handed over my credit card and asked for my room key.

“Please put in your pin number,” said the receptionist, passing me the Albert EFTPOS machine.

The Albert machines are the Commonwealth’s latest in whizz bang technology. About 75,000 of them have been rolled out in Australia. And they only have a touchscreen with no voice output. This means, as a person who is blind, I can’t use them.

It was only due to the kindness of the receptionist, and the fact that I am a regular at that hotel, that I didn’t have to sleep out in that seven degrees.

About eighteen months ago I, and others from Blind Citizens Australia, told the bank that we could not use these machines. We have been using other EFTPOS machines for years because they include a telephone style keypad onto which we can key our pin numbers. We asked them to stop the rollout, and modify the machine by adding a keypad. They have talked to us a lot about the problem, but taken very little action to do anything about it.

Many people who are blind or vision impaired have been asked by the staff of various retailers to reveal their pin numbers so that the staff member can key it in. Many others have stopped going to retailers who only have these machines.

Others have stopped making transactions, and been forced to rely on family members and friends to do the grocery shopping, pay for the drinks or buy the milk and bread. The Commonwealth bank, by rolling out this device, is eroding the independence for which we have fought for many years.
The irony of this is that last Thursday the Commonwealth bank launched its new accessibility plan, in which it aspires to be the most accessible bank in Australia. It’s a nice claim to make in a glossy brochure. It’s a long way from the reality when Albert prevents at least 450000 Australians who are blind or vision impaired from conducting transactions.

And it is not just preventing us from banking Commonwealth – the Albert bar applies in retailers across the country who have bought the machines.

After the last federal budget banks protested that they were being treated unfairly by having a tax imposed only on them. When the Commonwealth bank stops imposing an Albert retail ban on me, and 450000 other Australians, I will have more sympathy with this argument. Until then, bring it on Mr Treasurer.

About the author: Graeme Innes is the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner and a qualified as a lawyer.


Graeme Innes  |  @ProBonoNews

Graeme Innes is a disability advocate

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