Last night, a brand-new report was launched by the Lending Standards Board (LSB), Access for d/Deaf customers in banking & credit, aimed at guiding financial services on how to create accessible services for d/Deaf customers.
The LSB is the primary self-regulatory body for the banking industry, and their Codes compliment the statutory regulation.
Nationwide Building Society hosted the event with over 100 people in attendance from across the financial services sector and the d/Deaf community.
Where did this all begin?
Kathryn Townsend, Head of Customer Vulnerability at Nationwide Building Society, started this journey of accessibility for d/Deaf customers whilst working at Barclays as the Head of Customer & Client Accessibility (Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances).
Under Kathryn’s lead, back in 2015, Barclays were the first bank to launch Video Relay Services (VRS) so that d/Deaf customers could contact Barclays customer services in British Sign Language (BSL).
Shortly after, other banks followed suit, starting to make an impact on improving the deaf customer experience in the banking sector.
This has long been a passion and focus for Kathryn, and she started her role as Disability and Access Ambassador in the Banking Sector back in 2021. Ambassadors are senior business leaders who encourage improvements in the accessibility and quality of services and facilities in their sector for disabled people (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/disability-and-access-ambassadors).
Back in December 2022, I was invited to attend a leader’s breakfast around Improving accessibility for d/Deaf consumers in financial services. This event focused on gathering experiences of d/Deaf people and their families/friends and industry experts to help identify the key remaining barrier and what can be done to change these.
This was such a successful initiative, with excellent representation from the major UK Banks and also the LSB and UK Finance.
Fast forward to last night
Anna Roughley, Head of Insight at LSB, was at that meeting and became aware of the challenges d/Deaf customers were facing accessing services.
This led to Anna, alongside Emma Lovell, CEO at the LSB, taking the decision to conduct more details research into d/Deaf people’s experiences in the banking sector, and following on from that, this vital report being launched.
The aim of the research and report was to drive high standards and share the voices of those with lived experience.
So, here are the key identified improvements from the report:
- The numbers of complaints from the d/Deaf community are not representative of the number of issues that d/Deaf people face accessing the banking sector
- d/Deaf customers’ needs differ and need to receive individualised and tailored support
- d/Deaf customers are feeling forced to use third parties to interact with their bank as the processes for direct contact are not accessible
- The reliance on third parties to help d/Deaf customers was said to lead to a higher potential for fraud and scams
- There is a lot that still needs doing to improve staff and customer awareness of everything from process to service
- d/Deaf customers are having to wait longer to be served by their Bank as they are waiting for the availability of BSL interpreting
- Working with colleagues as ‘champions’ to represent certain customer groups or access needs has the potential to bring about positive change, using lived experience to make recommendations on improvements
The report found that from looking at Banks’ websites, 88% had induction loops in the branch and only 65% had BSL in the branch, and 59% were able to offer BSL remotely.
And to leave you with a lived experience from Lesley-Anne Harris, one of the d/Deaf contributors to this report:
“I feel like banks treat us like second-class citizens. We’re almost like an afterthought.”
This report offers really digestible and easy-to-consider advice.
It was well received last night by the Industry, so now it is all about the implementation to bring about that much-needed positive change in the banking and credit sector.
Want to read/watch the full report?
Take a look here to read the full report:
For a BSL version of the report, take a look here and click on the hands on the bottom right of the screen: