Financial Services: Visual Impairment

Treasury written question – answered on 23rd September 2022.

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Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if his Department will make an assessment of the potential challenges for blind and partially sighted people of (a) accessing and (b) managing their finances independently; and if his Department will take steps to help tackle these challenges.

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if his Department will make an estimate of the number and proportion of blind and partially sighted people who have faced digital exclusion with online banking in the latest period for which data is available; and whether his Department will take steps to help support people facing digital exclusion with online banking.

Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

The Government does not make direct assessments of visually impaired consumers’ ability to access banking. However, The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) conducts a Financial Lives Survey, which provides a comprehensive insight into the finances of the adult UK population. The latest survey closed in June 2022 and its findings will be published in due course, and will include insights on the use and satisfaction levels of visually impaired consumers with mobile and online banking services.

Innovations in the market mean that banking in the UK is more accessible than ever before, with many firms offering services to make everyday banking easier for the visually impaired such as communications in Braille, talking ATMs, accessible cards and text relay services for online banking. Firms also have staff on hand in branches to help customers set-up online or mobile banking services, teach them how to use video banking services and, for those without access to digital devices, the sector has established initiatives to support customers by providing them with free tablet devices.

The FCA has also published guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, which includes physical disabilities such as blindness and visual impairment. The guidance explores, among other things, how firms can understand the needs of vulnerable customers and provide targeted services for this cohort. For the visually impaired, the FCA expects firms to offer appropriate modes of communication such as using Braille or audio. It also expects firms to take into account the needs of these customers when designing, developing and testing products and services.

In addition, like all service providers, banks and building societies are bound under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments, where necessary, in the way they deliver their services.

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