TechShare pro: How Barclays uses latest tech to offer more accessible services to disabled people

Barclays bank logoOne in five people in the UK is disabled, whether that be by sight loss, hearing impairment, a motor or cognitive disability or other - and 90% of Barclays customers now interact with the bank through a screen. As the bank's Head of Digital Accessibility Paul Smyth explained at TechShare pro, unless those services are accessible the business risks losing 20% of its customers.

“We became the first bank to offer talking cash machines when we signed up to the RNIB’s Make Money Talk campaign in 2011. We immediately saw customers vote with their feet and recognised it was good for business and good for society,” said Paul Smyth, who was a keynote speaker at the AbilityNet/RNIB TechShare Pro in London In November.

Paul SMyth is Head of Digital Accessibility at Barclays

“It was a huge catalyst for change. We now have virtual sign language interpreters and high visibility bank cards....people think accessibility market is a small market, or accessible design is boring, but the purple pound (estimated household spending power of disabled people in the UK) is worth £265 billion."

Listening to disabled customers 

Barclays keeps a range of people in mind when developing its services, said Smyth, and uses surveys, social media engagement and stories to listen and share disabled people’s experiences.

“As someone with a visual impairment, I can choose to interact with my accessible smartphone rather than the bank kiosk when requesting cash withdrawals, highlighting the benefits of offering multiple ways to do the same things….We aim to be the most accessible business in the FTSE100,”

The popularity of mobile banking has meant that banks are having to provide information in a more accessible way, he said. “Many of us are on a smaller smartphone screen these days, banks are forced to distil down and display only the core information that the customer wants less of the generic marketing blurb that the bank would want. Simplifying both interface, language used and ways of interacting.

AI and Chat Bots

Smyth sees the newest technologies as a way to make banking safer and simpler. “AI and chat-bots are helping customers wade through bank sites and make sense of the information that they want through conversational interfaces rather than reading lengthy FAQs." 

"Simpler information means such services will be more accessible to a wide range of people, including those with dyslexia or cognitive impairments, as well as those using a screenreader. The industry is ripe for a revolution of simpler, safer and smarter tech, powered by predictive AI and presented in a personalised way that works for everyone,” said Smyth.

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