Singapore – April 25. More than 30 participants, consisting persons with disabilities, non-government organizations and bank representative attended the Access to Banking Services Seminar organized by Disabled People’s Association (DPA), where DPA shared survey findings on the accessibility of banking services in Singapore.

45 individuals with disabilities responded to the survey conducted over a one-month period starting Jan 2013. The survey found that 65 percent of respondents indicated that they experience barriers when using banking service. More than half required assistance when accessing banking accounts.

Amongst the different forms of banking, respondents rank the automated teller machines (ATM) as the most preferred means of accessing bank accounts. This was followed by online banking in second place.

Nina Munday, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant, Disabled People’s Association, talks about the survey findings on the accessibility of banking services in Singapore.
Video | Royson Poh

Lack of Audio Feedback Makes ATM Inaccessible

Today reported that DBS and OCBC Bank said their ATM pin pads comes with a raise number “5” to help visually impaired customers identify and navigate them. While this help customer with vision impairments use the keypad, the dynamic displays and lack of audio output makes ATM inaccessible to the vision impaired.

Diana Soh, 60, who has low vision due to a genetic condition, has to get very close to the ATM screen in order to read the information displayed. “I took such a long time trying to read from the ATM screen that the lady behind me in the queue stepped forward to help me with my transaction,” said Diana, “I was very embarrassed. Now I get my children to accompany me to the ATM.”

Internet Banking Security Dongle Pose Barriers for Vision Impaired

Steve Tee, 32, a banking customer with low vision has difficulty reading the security code from his internet banking dongle. “When I called the bank to ask for a “talking dongle” I was told that I have to go down to the branch to make the request,” said Steve, “It is very difficult for me to go down when I am working.”

Steve uses accessibility setting on his mobile phone that displays large fonts in high contrast. This allows him to read text messages. Security pins sent via SMS to his mobile would be easily accessible. Unfortunately for Steve, his bank only offers security pins through dongles.

“I rely on my mother or father to read the security pins to me when I am doing my internet banking,” said Steve, “I am a working adult and I wish I can be independent and do it all by myself.”

Enable Persons with Disabilities to Independently Manage Personal Finances

“One particular area in which more can be done to empower persons with disabilities to live more independent lives is to enable them to manage their own finances,” says Marrissa Medjeral, executive director, DPA. “With the recent incentives to hire persons with disabilities this group of people will be more likely to support themselves, yet many have to rely on family and friends to do their banking for them as those services are inaccessible.”

AsiaOneNews reported that Standard Chartered Bank launched an ATM in Upper Thomson that is equipped with an audio function for visually impaired customers. According to bank representative at the seminar, the Upper Thomson locality was selected due to its proximity to the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped. Standard Chartered Bank said that more ATMs equipped with audio function will be implemented after this trial.

Standards for Designing Accessible ATM Machines

While talking ATM may be new in Singapore, standards for accessible ATM machines have been put in place in the United States.  The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design has set new limits for access and usability for ATM machines. According to Smith Debnam Attorneys At Law, the requirements include:

  • Speech output for all displayed information.
  • Standards for numerical keyboard.
  • Sans serif font display with height specifications for ease of reading.
  • Tactilely distinctive function and command keys.
  • Reach ranges that enable users in wheelchairs to access the ATM.
  • Height limits of display screen to ensure that wheelchair users are able to see the display.
  • Clear floor space that allows for forward or parallel approach by wheelchair users.

“Apart from the building code, Singapore has no accessibility guidelines for electronic services or online services,” said Ivan Tan, head digital accessibility of the Infocomm Accessibility Centre. “There is a need to set accessibility standards to accelerate the implementation of accessible ATMs in Singapore,” said Ivan.