Banks are failing deaf customers, charity says

Banks and building societies are leaving people with hearing loss feeling “financially excluded”, campaigners have claimed.

Deaf customers are not receiving equal access to services and lenders’ increased reliance on technology such as telephone banking means they have an even tougher time, Action on Hearing Loss argued.

Campaigners said half of those with hearing problems surveyed were unhappy with the communication methods used by their bank or building society.

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The charity found from its 6,000 members that some three-quarters visited their branch in person, although less than half would prefer to communicate in this way.

A third of respondents had experienced difficulties relating to hearing loss or deafness when communicating with their bank or building society.

Roger Wicks, a director of the charity, said: “Some banks are failing people, which can leave them frustrated and isolated, and can lead to them feeling financially excluded.

“We strongly believe that people with a hearing loss should have equal access to their banking services.”

The study said that bank staff did not always understand the “text relay” system for phone communication, which allows customers to type a message that is relayed through an operator.

Action on Hearing Loss, formerly known as the RNID, surveyed 152 bank and building society branches and found that in more than half (52 per cent) there was no induction loop or the loop was not available, switched on or working.

The charity said one anonymous bank customer had told it: “[They] try to speak with me through a glass screen.

“They have the counter loop sign, but staff don’t know what it is or how it works. There is no deaf awareness.”