Keeping payments accessible for all

The pace of change in the rapidly evolving payments space is news to no one. As the world moves closer to becoming cashless and disruptors offer an increasingly wide number of payment options, the old ways of buying are losing relevance.

Amid all the change, there is always a risk some people may be left behind. In Australia, where adults with a disability or long term health condition make up 40 per cent of the population, one thing companies cannot afford to leave behind is accessibility for all.

"It’s not the biggest issue institutions have to deal with but the organisations which do well are the ones which get the detail right."
Graeme Innes, Ex-Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner

Now cards and mobile devices are replacing traditional money, payment providers need to ensure their new developments are designed to be inclusive and accessible by all.  

Former Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes says the importance of such a move goes beyond inclusion and to the sustainability of companies and the broader economy.

“It’s critical,” he says. “As we’re interacting more with an economy that is not a cash-based economy, if facilities like this are not accessible, then you are actively locking people out of economic participation. “


Innes says the organisations which succeed in this new world of payments are the ones which get the details right.

“It’s the little things that make a difference,” he says.

Organisations around Australia have heard the call. In September, the Reserve Bank of Australia released a new $A5 note which contains accessible features. The notes have small, raised dots to assist the vision-impaired community to identify different denominations.

The changes are largely the result of a public push by teenager Connor McLeod, who petitioned the Reserve Bank of Australia to implement the features. As a person who is blind, upon receiving money (in note form) as a Christmas present, he found himself unable to tell how much it was. 

“Basically I thought ‘I should be able to do this by myself’,” McLeod says. “But I couldn’t because there wasn’t any real difference [between] the notes.” 

Vision Australia General Manager Karen Knight calls the changes the most significant accessibility improvements in the banking sector.

“There are nearly 360,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision,” Knight says. “For the blind and low vision community to participate fully in all aspects of everyday life, including studying, working and socialising, products and services need to be fully accessible.”

Keeping payments accessible for all

In the card payments space, ANZ has developed a card with accessibility features aimed at making payments easier for the vision impaired. ANZ Access cards utilise larger font and tactile indicators as well as high-visibility leading edges.

When designing the card, we worked with members of the blindness and low vision community to workshop new designs. Vision Australia supported the focus groups and said participants were impressed with the idea of a big company speaking with consumers who are blind or have low vision to get their input.

“It’s really important for a customer with vision impairment to be able to interact with their bank independently,” Innes says. “ANZ’s card, with these new features means you know exactly what you’re doing when you’re inserting it in the ATM or when buying in a store.

“This is just a little detail which will make the lives of about 360,000 Australians who are blind or vision impaired a little bit easier.”

According to McLeod, who worked with us at ANZ, it is critical to get feedback from actual users.

“The focus groups helped to get opinions from a selection of people from varying levels of vision impairment,” McLeod says. “From people who need tactile everything, like myself, to people who needed some tactile and some visuals, to people who just needed increased visuals.”

Globally, ATMs with increased accessibility features are becoming more and more widespread, with over a thousand voice-enabled ATMs rolled out across Singapore in early 2016.

Traditionally ATMs operate with visual and touch cues; the new machines were reportedly designed with Singapore’s Association of the Visually Handicapped and come with features including braille instructions and audio cues.

Barclays in the UK offers technology that provides easier access to online services like internet banking for the elderly or those unfamiliar with computers (as mentioned on BlueNotes before).

New mobile banking and mobile payment capabilities such as Apple Pay leverage the rich accessibility features that often come as standard in modern smartphone devices such as magnification apps and voiceover technologies.


Despite all the good work to date, Innes tells us more can be done. He says it’s important for industry to work with peak national groups of people with disabilities to find out what the key issues are.

“The key way in which any major organisation can better support people with disabilities is with a change of attitude,” he says.

“So that negative and limiting assumptions aren’t made about people with disabilities and so anyone providing services asks the person first what assistance they may need rather than just assuming.”

Knight says businesses need to consider accessibility as a key element of the customer experience.

“Accessible design is essential in a new product, online service or retail layout,” she says. “This is particularly important in the financial services industry where the use of smart banking through mobile apps and touch screens on ATMs and other merchant devices is increasing.”

“The blind and low vision community is at risk of being left behind in the digital banking world if institutions do not use accessible technology.”

For his part, McLeod says such standards offer people of all abilities an underrated but important right: independence.

“It’s important when business provide accessibility for, well, any disabled person – the community in general” he says. “Because it means independent access to whatever goods or services they are providing.”

“And it just helps with life.”

Kath Bray is General Manager Deposits & Payments ANZ and Steve Price is Senior Manager Everyday Banking

Graeme Innes is Chair of the Attitude Foundation, which is sponsored by ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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