19 February 2018

Namibia: Touch Screen ATMs Leave Visually Impaired in the Dark

Windhoek — The introduction of touch screen automated teller machines (ATMs) has left many people with visual impairment unable to access services from several local business outlets.

Executive director of the Namibia Federation of the Visually Impaired (NFVI) Moses Nghipandulwa told New Era that his office has been inundated with calls from visually impaired people expressing their frustration at being unable to use certain ATMs around the country as they have been converted to touch screen.

Nghipandulwa explained that with the old ATMs they had mastered which button to press. "But FNB and Standard Bank came up with the new system of touch screen and they are replacing manual ATMs with the touch screen. It is a challenge to people with visual impairment as it (ATM) doesn't given any options on whether you want to use manual or touch screen," said Nghipandulwa, adding that he went to a certain bank's ATMs in the Windhoek central business district and found that most, if not all ATMs, were touch screen.

Therefore, Nghipandulwa said, people with visual impairment have to ask assistance from strangers at the ATM or walk away. "But it boils down to safety because the person called to assist might be a thief and not really be helpful."

Nghipandulwa said they are not against the new system but feels there should have been some consultation to gauge whether the banks are being user-friendly with their new system.

"Banks can keep both manual and touch screen ATMs or introduce touch screen ATMs with Braille letters on the screen or at the edge which we are able to read."

He said another issue for people living with visual impairment is that banks do not allow them to register on their name a vehicle that they purchased through the bank, because they can't drive.

"When visually impaired people want to buy a car, that vehicle will not be on your name, reason being it's not you that is going to drive it. This is really a burning issue because I am the one who is responsible for paying that car, and at the end of the day it's on someone else's name - that is discrimination," said Nghipandulwa.

When asked if Standard Bank is aware of the problem and what they are doing to accommodate the visually impaired, the bank's spokesperson Surihe Gaomas-Guchu said she was awaiting feedback from the business sector regarding queries on the matter. But Gaomas-Guchu said she would provide a response to this article. At the time of going to press FNB spokesperson, Elzita Beukes, had not responded to questions forwarded to her office.

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