April 22, 2024

Finance committee recommends more ATMs for the visually impaired

Under the chairmanship of John McGuinness, a Fianna Fáil TD, the committee has completed a report on The General Scheme of the Access to Cash Bill 2024, which is intended to ensure the public continues to have reasonable access to cash in an increasingly digital age.

Having done its pre-legislative scrutiny, the committee has made 14 recommendations, based on submissions received and evidence it heard at two public sessions in February and March. Officials from the Department of Finance and representatives of Banking and Payments Federation Ireland were among those who gave evidence.

Influenced by a submission from Voice of Vision Impairment (VVI), which argued that the rights of visually impaired people to access their own money should be included in the law, the committee has recommended that provision be made for a “minimum level of accessible ATMs which must provide the necessary functionality”.

It also recommends that it be a prescribed requirement that ATM operators provide cash machines that have a headphone socket and text-to-speech functionality.

TDs and senators also say a review should be conducted on the accessibility of existing ATMs, with a view to upgrading them if required.

In its submission, Voice of Vision Impairment explained that in 2022, Ulster Bank was the only provider of ATMs with a headphone jack and text-to-speech functionality.

Its exit from the market last year meant there were no accessible ATMs for the visually impaired. While tactile keyboards are a requirement for these bank customers, unless they can also ‘read’ what’s on screen, cash withdrawals and lodgments are almost impossible.

The lobby group also pointed out that the European Accessibility Act was transposed into Irish law last year. It means new ATMs will have to be accessible to all from June 2025.

On Tuesday a spokesman for the group said the only accessible ATM it is aware of is one recently installed by PTSB on O’Connell Street in Dublin.

In other recommendations the Oireachtas Finance Committee said that a monitoring and review group should be established to ensure the cash needs of vulnerable groups continue to be met. This should have members from the community and voluntary sectors, and from disabled persons representative organisations.

The committee has also recommended there be an obligation to make bank notes with a value lower than €50 available in cash machines.

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