By Emma Bennison

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For over two years, BCA has been working with our members in an attempt to convince the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) to cease rolling out its Albert EFTPOS device. Albert is a touch screen only terminal which is inaccessible to many of us because it is buttonless and requires people who are blind or vision impaired to undertake a tutorial in order to enter their PIN. For many, the only option has been to divulge our PIN to a third party – a breach of our credit card contracts.

The Court Action:

Following the termination of complaints in the Australian Human Rights Commission, BCA members Graeme Innes and Nadia Mattiazzo made the difficult and courageous decision to take their matters to the Federal Court, with the legal assistance of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, (PIAC). In December, the parties agreed to an out-of-court settlement, and the case was withdrawn.

On behalf of BCA members, board and staff, we extend our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to Graeme and Nadia for their commitment to what we understand was a difficult negotiation. While we in no way hold Graeme and Nadia responsible for the outcome, BCA’s strongly held view is that the terms of the settlement are unsatisfactory and will do little, if anything, to improve access to the Albert device. Nor are we confident that it will send a strong and unequivocal message to the banking industry that people who are blind or vision impaired will push back strongly and definitively against inaccessible banking products and services into the future.

The Settlement:

The terms of the settlement include:

  1. A commitment from the CBA to release updated software which will apparently improve the accessibility of the Albert.  
  2. Endorsement of the banking accessibility principles, recently launched by the Australian Banking Association, which can be found on their website.
  3. A commitment to merchant training to increase awareness of Albert’s enhanced accessibility feature. This will involve an initial letter to all merchants, publication of an instructional video for merchants and reminders on the CBA’s invoices to merchants about how to use the accessibility feature.
  4. An agreement to publish a training podcast or video for card holders about the accessibility feature and how to use it, and a commitment to conduct annual training sessions in various capital cities, for people who are blind or vision impaired.   
  5. An agreement to make a public statement which details the agreed outcomes of the settlement and commits the bank to putting accessibility at the forefront of future product development. This statement is available on the CBA website.

BCA’s Response:

As we understand it, the accessibility enhancements that the CBA proposes releasing are not new. In fact, several members had the opportunity to test them in late 2017. Many who did so reported that while they represented an improvement, entering a PIN accurately and consistently was still not possible, particularly in noisy environments.

BCA welcomes the launch of the banking accessibility principles as a helpful road map for the future. However, we note that they are not legally binding and therefore not enforceable. While merchant training and awareness strategies are helpful, they are unlikely to be effective, given the high staff turnover in retail and hospitality. They would be unnecessary if the bank was prepared to make devices with tactile numeric keypads available in addition to the Albert.

We acknowledge that an instructional video or podcast for card holders represents an improvement on CBA’s training approach to-date. However, we continue to assert that it is unacceptable that we should be required to undertake additional training simply to enter our PIN. This is an imposition which sighted customers would neither accept nor be asked to accept.

So Where Does This Leave Us?

In a nutshell, what we are left with is a device which is inaccessible to many of us, yet continues to be rolled out at an alarming rate across Australia.  Many of us had hoped that a win in this case would compel the CBA to cease the roll out of Alberts until a solution could be found; but instead we are still expected to put ourselves and our fellow customers out while we grapple with learning how to enter our PIN, or to breach our credit card contracts by divulging it to a third party. In the mean-time, the bank continues its refusal to provide devices with tactile numeric keypads as an alternative to the Albert.

What Comes Next?

There are four key areas we will focus on in 2019:

  1. BCA is working with Graeme to develop a plastic tactile overlay template prototype for testing with the Albert device. Assuming it works, we will approach the CBA to see whether they would be willing to distribute the overlays to their merchant customers for use by people who are blind or vision impaired. Should the bank be unwilling to do so, we will distribute them directly ourselves so you can use them when you encounter an Albert.
  2. We encourage you to continue to use our “touch screen EFTPOS postcards” to make businesses aware of the inaccessibility of Albert. If you need these sent to you, please call or email us.
  3. Once the new accessibility features are released, we will work with affected members to lodge additional complaints of disability discrimination and to identify other relevant complaint mechanisms.
  4. We will work with our legal advisers to draw attention to the shortcomings of Australia’s Disability Discrimination law, and to seek solutions to the risks and challenges it poses to individuals and organisations attempting to use it to effect change.

The CBA case was covered in January by the ABC’s 7:30 program. The story is available to watch online. As always, we’ll keep you informed of all developments, and take any new opportunities which arise to advocate for our right to accessible banking.

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