South African Banking Accessibility Survey for blind and visually impaired persons

If you are living in South Africa and live with a visual impairment, you are no doubt one of those who might have received terrible service from your bank.


Or, just perhaps they might have amazed you with their accessibility of their products and/or services.


You may also recall the difficulty that I’ve had with FNB in the past and ABSA who joined them in ignoring our calls for action on fixing the inaccessibility of their services.  If you haven’t read those articles, let me just say that their attitude stinks and that FNB still dismissed my request for dialogue even though I have approached them as the representative of Blind SA, a national consumer organization of and for the blind.


Either way, we have finally launched the South African Banking Survey that you can now complete.


The purpose of this survey is to gain a greater understanding of the service needs of people with visual impairment who are making use of products and/or services provided by banks in South Africa.


We are seeking people who are blind or visually impaired (or their caregivers), who are willing to complete a few questions.


If you want to be contacted for assistance to complete the survey, please let us know on Facebook or on Twitter.  Optionally, please phone us on 0127533663.


Thank you to Unlocking Abilities (PTY) Ltd. for hosting the survey.

Three years later: FNB and inaccessibility to blind and visually impaired customers

The below is an email response on a mailing list where the topic of FNB seems to be quite hot at present.


There are some members who want to keep it quiet as they would like to keep it internal but, as another poster pointed out:


“We have a right to our independence and it is up to us to claim that right.
I agree that the fact that one receives an SMS later to confirm a transaction, is just not good enough; nor is the fact that one immediately might get back one’s card. The person at the shop could easily write down one’s PIN for later use the next time you unsuspectingly rock up at the shop. Besides, this lack of assertiveness would only further create the impression that we are happy to acquiesce in the development of inaccessible facilities and would find ourselves having to rely on the eyes of others more and more. Instead of trying to get workarounds, we should strongly oppose things like inaccessible POS, online banking, SARS eFiling, prepaid meters, unmarked hotel key cards, etc. These developers have got away with it precisely because we have not opposed those developments vigorously enough and have been satisfied with the consolation prizes of confirmation SMSes after the fact and the eyes of others.

Blind SA has an Advocacy and Information committee which is currently grappling with all the matters I mentioned above. FNB’s attitude is shocking, to say the least, but if necessary, we will take them to the SAHRC or even the Constitutional Court. Continue reading Three years later: FNB and inaccessibility to blind and visually impaired customers

FNB bank is not accessible for blind or visually impaired persons.

If you are blind, partially sighted, elderly or becoming older, do not open up an account with FNB.  In fact, close your accounts if you have made the mistake opening one with them as they do not care for users who are blind or partially sighted.


Even though I have provided FNB with the technical solution on how to make their services, specifically the web site, friendly for visually impaired persons, they just dismissed my case, once again.

When one of my totally blind clients asked them how to overcome the issues with the iOS app, the FNB consultant told them to turn their speech software, (VoiceOver), off.  How stupid can you get?

In any case, here is the very entertaining response from FNB regarding the fact that I cannot access their internet banking services independently, even though I have been assured that I would be able to make use of it.

By the way, it is 10 days later that I’m receiving this written communication.  No one phoned me during this time.

Dear Mr Kruger,

We acknowledge receipt of your complaint.

One of our technical consultants also called you and discussed the matter with you in the past.

We have investigated the possibility of making Online Banking suitable for sight impaired customers. However at this stage we’re yet to implement the functionality.
We  suggest that in the interim you use our FNB ATM’s as well as Telephone Banking and General Enquiries to perform your transactions.

We apologise for the inconvenience caused.

Marinda Tonkin
Online Assistance


Me, using the FNB ATM’s?  Since when can a totally blind person use FNB’s ATM’s on their own without any sighted assistance?


I will shortly do a quick breakdown of accessible banks in South Africa in a future article.  Perhaps I should create a survey, similar to the earlier one on accessibility of mobile networks in South Africa, that I published earlier in 2013.

Vodacom takes away a little more independence from the visually impaired in South Africa

Standard Bank’s short dial number service, which allows a Standardbank account holder to dial a short number from his or her mobile phone in order to recharge a mobile phone with airtime from a Standard bank account, may be discontinued.

The service is currently only available on MTN and Cell C.

Vodacom South Africa discontinued the availability of the short dial number on their network, saying that noone is using this service.

However, this is not true as many shocked Vodacom South Africa blind users have been expressing their concern via mailing lists and other social media.

One user wrote: “As a blind person, I was given a little more independence and dignity by not having to ask a sighted person to go to the bank with me just to recharge my account or to give them money to by a recharge voucher, in most cases just to be cheated!”

Another said that: “I was able to recharge my phone under a minute, all whilst walking, I was so used to the process…”

The process was really simple. All one had to do was to dial a short code number from a phone, and the system would then prompt the caller via an interactive voice response system, to enter their card number, customer selected pin, to select the specific network that they want to purchase airtime for, to specify the phone number and Standard Bank account to be used for this transaction and then to specify the amount to be loaded.

After this, the system would confirm all the details and one could then confirm the recharge, make changes or cancel the transaction.

The system was happy to be interrupted, if you already knew the drill, so that it was indeed possible to recharge a pre-paid number in less than a minute.

The general feeling amongst visually impaired and even elderly people with vision loss is that they are losing an important part of their independence as a result of Vodacom’s decision to cancel their short dial service.

Vodacom cancelled the short dial number, 11333, on the 15th of August although the number was already out of service before then.

When I contacted Vodacom’s (Special needs) helpdesk, they told me to use the USSD service, *120*2345#. However, many blind people do not have accessible phones and thus, this service is out of reach for a majority of these users.

When I pointed this out to the consultant, I was told that this is not Vodacom’s problem and that Standard bank is in charge of these services.

Regardless of who’s fault this is, many Vodacom users are now not able to recharge their prepaid accounts independently and as frequently as they may need to.

For those on Cell C and MTN, things are looking up though, for the moment, since the service is still working on these networks.

Perhaps Vodacom users should look at porting their phone number to one of the other networks so that they may enjoy the benefits of having access to the Standard bank short dial service while it lasts.

To access the short dial numbers for Standard Bank, dial 14311 from a Cell C phone or 565 from a MTN phone.

Standard bank did not provide a response by the time of publication.