Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Technology Aids Branch Banking for the Blind

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Technology Aids Branch Banking for the Blind

Article excerpt

Most bankers recall the flurry of activity that came with enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Banks scrambled to retrofit branches and automated teller machines, to make them more accessible to wheelchair-bound individuals.

Improvements for the visually impaired have been slower to come. There is still debate over the best way to make banking services more accessible to blind and visually impaired customers without compromising privacy.

But with some rather straightforward technology and the guidance of those closest to the issue--the visually impaired themselves--at least one bank is putting a stop to this debate.

National City Bank, Kentucky, a subsidiary of Clevelandbased National City Corp., had a vision of a branch that would be completely accessible to the blind. Its branch location at Birchwood Roads in East Louisville made that vision a reality.

Over the past few years the bank has introduced a variety of services for its blind and visually impaired customers in Louisville, including braille ATMs, and an audio-recorded statement service, whereby a customer gets his or her financial information on tapes that are mailed out each month.

The most recent move led National City in 1993 to launch Nomad, a directional and informational tool for visually impaired individuals. National City is the first bank in the world (and the first company in the United States, for that matter) to launch the system.

The Nomad system was initially installed in the East Louisville branch. It consists of a touch-sensitive pad that connects to any personal computer, and an attendant software program that guides the pad's response to a user. Raised-line graphics built around the software (which uses computer-aided design techniques) answer a customer's queries. In this way the exchange of information is kept private.

The Nomad device can "tell" visually impaired customers where cash-dispensing machines, teller windows, and service desks are located within the branch. …

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