Lord Shipley: Improving telephone banking for the deaf

Today in the chamber Lord Shipley will ask the Government what proposals it has to make it easier for deaf people to access telephone banking. At the moment, he writes here, it’s just not good enough

Lord Shipley
Lord Shipley

Those who are deaf face unnecessary difficulties when trying to use telephone services with banks and similar organisations.

They need text phones, video relay services and the assistance of a third party to access telephone banking services. With a few exceptions, they don’t receive these services adequately.

Yet the 2010 Equality Act placed a duty on service providers to meet the needs of those who are deaf and are British Sign Language users.

Insufficient practical progress has been made. I recently received a request for help from someone who is deaf and who had experienced lack of understanding from a bank’s call centre.

Too often automatic menus are a barrier. Too often bank staff refuse to discuss financial information with third party interpreters who deaf people rely on to communicate on their behalf. Too often those staff do not have deaf awareness training.

Encouragingly, one bank does now offer a video relay service (VRS) that enables deaf people to communicate with its customer services team via a video link with an interpreter. We need others to follow.

However, banks frequently have limited numbers of text phones that are often not manned.

I want to see –

  • An adequate number of text phones provided and manned by banks
  • All frontline staff in banking groups to receive deaf awareness training
  • Availability of VRS with a third party interpreter to be a normal service.

In the UK 800,000 people have severe or profound deafness and around 25,000 people depend on British Sign Language.

A survey by Action on Hearing Loss in 2011 found that half of deaf people felt discriminated against by their banks because of their disability. We cannot tolerate that level of dissatisfaction.

Yet the problem will grow as more organisations – including government agencies – use telephones as the preferred means of contact.

The technology is there through video relay and text relay to provide an equal service to deaf people and it needs to be made available as a matter of course.


Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.


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