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. Around the year 2000 Standard Bank updated their website which used to be a model of accessibility. After the update, it was completely inaccessible. We engaged with them and when we got nowhere, we gave them a deadline after which we would take the matter to the SAHRC. They came on board and fixed the site. Hazel marshall and the SANCB achieved a great breakthrough with the voting template through their advocacy. So, with some effort we can achieve these things; but them we must make that effort and not be satisfied with second-best.”


The above is probably a very brief overview of what we’re facing but, it incaptulates the most important basics.


I would like to quote another point that was made regarding the FNB issue by one of the other posters:


“To the best of my knowledge there is not something in the Consumer
Protection Act we can call on to fight the issue of inaccessible products. I
do believe however that, getting the relevant role players onboard, this can
be tackled on grounds of our constitution. I will leave it to the people
that are in the know on this to quote the relevant sections of the
constitution, but things like the right to privacy, protection of personal
information, amongst others, come to mind.”


The discussion is quite heated and as mentioned above, there are some folk who’d like for me to stay silent on this matter.


Below is an email that I just posted about 30 minutes ago, regarding this lovely FNB story.  I have edited out unnecessary text.


Hello all,


The issue regarding FNB is not a simple one.  I have engaged them via Twitter, via email and via phone.

Since 2011, I have been in touch with them regarding accessibility issues on their web site and other processes in general.

As a member of Blind SA’s advocacy and information committee, I engaged them earlier this year, attempting to arrange for a dialogue, i.e. a meeting of some sorts, so that we could sit down for a chat and discuss all the issues that we are facing.

Before I continue, I would just like to make something very clear.

There are some members of the NAPSA list, (and outside of NAPSA), who are perhaps not necessarily aware of the fact that they are rather privileged.  They take it for granted that everyone else is married to a sighted person or is still living with Mom or Dad and thus, they don’t really understand or grasp the full concept of absolute financial independence.

If you are OK with other people knowing your PIN number, good for you but, please do not be patronizing when we take these issues a bit more serious than you are.

There are many blind and visually impaired people who are living alone or who might be living on a very low income and for them, some of these issues can be catastrophic.

Getting back to the FNB issue, I had a phone conversation with a consultant, who was tasked with typing out all my concerns as (the people responsible) were not (Willing or available) to talk to me themselves.  This just mean that I don’t have a private banker and thus, what I have to say is not really that important.  Smirks.

I spoke to her for just over an hour and was promised feedback.  However, as it was not her place to make a decision, it was forwarded to someone within theFNB Digital Banking division.

Further to the letter; I will first discuss the contents and other relevant issues with the other members of the AIC of Blind SA and, if I am granted permission, I will gladly reproduce it.

I trust that you find this in order.

Finally; I am aware that there are visually impaired people working within FNB.

Some of them have been there for many years but, are also given the same sort of treatment when encountering difficulties and when asking for assistance from their (Employer).

Then, there are others who are a bit higher up and who enjoy special treatment thus, not really in touch with the issues down on the ground.

I do not believe that we should let the banks dictate to us what our requirements are.  We should be involved as consumers, all the way.  We should be in the driving-seat and not just tagging along; not when it comes to financial Independence.  Thus, the importance of organizations such as Blind SA cannot be emphasized enough.

Let me quote from a post dating back to 2014, November.
Start of quoted post:
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, (Voice Over), 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

End of quoted post:

I was held up at gunpoint when I used an ATM in 2005.  I hate them and never use ATM’s outside of banks.  However, I’m also not usually able to use them from within as many of them are not accessible enough to use.

For those who might not be aware; not all ATM’s are the same.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


Kind regards.


I’ll end off this post with a very apt remark that was made by one of the other posters.


“I feel very strongly that disabled people should not be prepared to  sacrifice their privacy or dignity in order to make use of any given  service. As another lister rightly pointed out, we have the technology to  circumvent accessibility barriers, it simply needs to be implemented.  Should we be grateful whenever a company brings about an accessible  solution? I think not. Are non-disabled people grateful that they have  access to technology like banking on their handsets or the convenience of  ATM’s? I don’t think so. We are not asking for science fiction concepts to  be implemented, we are asking for available technology to be applied.”

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