Notes on banking accessibility

Australians may notice a new blue and gold addition to their wallets in the coming weeks as the Reserve Bank of Australia circulates the new $A10 note. And if you can’t see the new note you will definitely be able to feel it

"It’s vital any further advances in [banking] technology have accessibility at the forefront.” - Karen Knight

The new notes contain the same world-leading security features as the $A5 note issued in 2016 - including tactile features to support people from the blind and low vision community.

While the roll out of the new currency has been welcomed by the Australian blind and low-vision community, advocates have warned  of the new wave of challenges faced as technology is introduced by the commercial banking sector which risks leaving the blind and low-vision community behind.

Vision Australia General Manager of Advocacy and Engagement Karen Knight says while tactile currency has provided the blind and low-vision community with greater confidence and security around cash transactions, technology such as touchscreens pose a major hurdle to accessible banking.

“From speaking to our blind and low-vision clients we know the introduction of the tactile $A5 note has had a positive impact in their lives and we’re excited to see a second tactile note entering circulation,” she told me.

“They say the tactile features have significantly helped them to identify banknotes and to feel more confident to pay with and receive cash. But while cash still plays a major role in day-to-day transactions, electronic payment methods are increasingly becoming the norm so it’s vital any further advances in technology in this area have accessibility at the forefront.”

Cashing out

Knight’s comments are supported by a recent RBA Consumer Payments Survey. The study shows Australian consumers increasingly use debit or credit cards as their preferred payment methods.

While more and more small payments are being made with contactless ‘tap-and-go’ cards, cash is still often used for lower-value transactions for over one-third of consumer payments.

ANZ has been leading the charge in accessible banking with the launch in 2016 of accessibility features on its eftpos cards - a first for Australian banking.

Following consultation with Vision Australia, ANZ is now expanding its accessibility features across a broad range of its debit and credit cards, starting with a national roll out of the ANZ Access Visa Debit card in October and New Zealand in 2017, with a roll out across the entire range of commercial Visa credit cards late November.

New features for cardholders will include tactile indicators that help orientate and identify cards, larger fonts, and high-visibility leading edges to help insert the card correctly.

The contactless payment technology will enable customers to securely and conveniently tap without a PIN for purchases under $A100. 

Knight says Australia’s banking sector needs to be in constant and permanent discussion with accessibility advocates to ensure any advancement takes into consideration the needs of all Australians.

ABS data indicates the majority of people with disability who are 15 years or older use online services to do things such as purchase goods, pay bills and conduct banking. 


There are different technologies which can assist people with disabilities to access and use online resources. People with vision impairments can use screen-reader software which reads out what is on the computer.

“People who are blind or have low vision deserve the same opportunities as everyone else to complete their financial transactions safely and securely and to be able to access their finances easily,” Knight says. 

“We aren’t against idea of ‘smart banking’ such as mobile apps, touchscreens on ATMs and other merchant devices, but the blind and low vision community should not be put in a position where they have to hand over their personal information or rely on another person to help them complete a transaction.”

Making information available online in addition to providing it in hard copy, over the phone, or in person can be an important way of making sure people with disability can access the information.

Similarly, making goods and services available via accessible websites or mobile apps can enable usage by people with disability who would otherwise not be able to access them.

Here at ANZ Hamish Mackenzie is changing the way businesses support the integration of vision impaired people, working in the role of Global Technology Accessibility Manager. His own vision impairment gives the role added significance for him.

“By recognising the effect that disability can have on its business customers and staff, ANZ aims to create processes and policies making it easier for those with disabilities to use our equipment, products and services,” he says.

“By listening and contributing to the discussion we can play an important role in empowering people with disability and their carers to participate fully in society.”

Fred Ohlsson is Group Executive, ANZ Australia

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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