Phill Fernandes, a member of our Gnomies community and a visually impaired geek in his own right, recently brought a story to my attention involving his banking institution and how it has made his life more difficult.

We depend on companies we work with to cater to our needs to its best ability. Banks are where we keep our money, our precious possessions, and in some cases our trust to adhere to agreements involving our vehicles and homes. In recent years, the banking world has undergone a considerable amount of scrutiny for how they handle funds and determine risk for loans.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons for financial institutions to learn is how to cater to its customer’s needs. Every customer is different, and some don’t have the ability to work with the tools the local branch gives them.

Phill is visually impaired. He may not completely blind, but he does require some assistive technologies to handle tasks that most people would consider trivial. Reading a textbook requires the use of a video magnifier, special software makes it possible for him to see and interpret what is happening on his computer screen, and just making his way around town can be a difficult task when you have trouble seeing things that other folks can’t miss.

His story is not unique, though it should stand as a cautionary tale to business owners that make assumptions about someone’s abilities based on their appearance or ignorance of a situation. The problem he faced was that he didn’t “look” blind to the teller, and as such did not receive the same level of support someone wearing sunglasses or using a white cane might.

Using EZ-DepositSlip

“As I always do before leaving for the bank, I made a deposit slip using software called EZ-DepositSlip.” Phill said, recalling the events leading up to his first deposit attempt with this particular branch of his local bank. He continued, “Instead of having to fill out the deposit slip manually, this software allow me to input my account information once and then each time I need to generate a slip all I have to do is select my account and then add each check as a record and then it as simple as clicking print.”

EZ-DepositSlip is a piece of software that creates a deposit slip dynamically. You fill out the bank’s information, and it create the deposit slip for you. Phill is unable to read the small print on the bank’s official deposit slips. For this reason, he and many other visually impaired individuals depend on large-print checks and software such as this to complete tasks such as these.

The very purpose of a deposit slip is to give the tellers clear, accurate information in a written form so that deposits are attributed to the correct account. Companies commonly use printed deposit slips made in-house to save time and money, and banks generally appreciate the savings on their end in terms of paper and time spent interpreting handwriting. In fact, QuickBooks and Quicken are among the most commonly-used tools for generating deposit slips.

EZ-DepositSlip is an award-winning software solution that does a remarkably good job at printing deposit slips that are accepted at many financial institutions around the world. Account numbers are printed in the same locations they would be at the local branch, and every key piece of information required by Phill’s bank is present on the slip.

Making the Deposit

“You can’t be blind.” These were the words spoken to Phill during his first encounter with this particular teller. She looked at his pre-printed deposit slip which he had used several times before with no trouble, and asked him why he hadn’t used one of their own deposit slips. He took a moment to explain that the process of filling out the standard deposit slips is difficult, if not impossible, due to the fact that he is unable to read the small print on them.

After some hesitation, the teller rewrote his slip on a standard one and accepted the deposit.

The next month, Phill returned to the branch to make his regular deposit. This time, he was attended to by a different teller. Still using the EZ-DepositSlip software as he had many times before, he presented the teller with the documentation required to make a deposit.

“She looked at the deposit slip and addressed the other teller, asking if she had seen it before. The other teller, which was the one I spoke to before, said that it was a photo copy and the bank would not accept it.” Phill recalled, “The teller that was attending to me rewrote the deposit slip and deposited the money.”

While he was never denied service at his branch, he was left with the feeling that he was somehow doing wrong by using software he felt made both his and the teller’s lives easier. Information was printed in a clear, concise fashion that met all the required standards of an American financial institution.

The Failures of the Bank

In Phill’s story, the bank failed in several ways. While he wasn’t technically denied service, which would be a big deal and also a potentially big problem for the bank, he was left with the impression that he wasn’t allowed to use software to assist him with filling out a deposit slip. His bank didn’t provide any other means for him to fill one out, so it was either that or not fill one out at all, as far as he was concerned.

The bank also failed in customer service. While everyone in the service industry has had a frustrating day here or there with customers’ individual needs, it’s important to keep in mind that disabilities are a very tricky situation in this department. As a business, you are required to do things like provide wheel chair access and other assistive measures for customers in need. While someone may not appear to be blind, they may have a severe visual impairment that makes the use of standard documentation difficult. For someone to go out of their way to provide this documentation, despite the issue, is a matter that should be welcomed and not met with scrutiny and resentment on the part of the staff.

What Can Banks Do?

Phill advised, “There are two solutions I see and they are having the bank specifically designed software for their clients or just allow them to use the self-generated slips.”

Banks have made great strides in recent years to improve accessibility to the visually impaired. ATMs are now regularly equipped with headphone jacks and braille buttons to make it possible for the blind to use. Some banks even provide specially-designed deposit slips printed in a large font for visually impaired customers to see.

Training staff on the differences between blind and visually impaired customers can also make a world of difference. Again, Phill wasn’t denied service, but he was given the impression that he was inconveniencing the staff by being disabled. As this article is about a broader situation, we’re not naming the financial institution in question here.

What ideas do you have to improve banking for those with visual disabilities? If you have an idea please leave it in the comments below.