Oliver Stevenson

As part of the work that we’re doing to make our products and services accessible to all customers, this week I was invited to attend the Global Financial Inclusion Forum, where I heard from some fascinating industry experts, met some really influential people and even found myself in the right place at the right time to be offered a standing invitation to the UN in New York!

Despite the hurricane tearing through the streets of North London, littering its typically quiet streets with tree trunks and turning my normally uneventful bus journey into a Bruce Willis action film, I managed to make it to the venue in time to grab a pastry and cup of coffee before taking my seat for the first round of speeches.

The session that I was attending was an exploration of the accessibility practices being adopted and explored globally. For the next couple of hours we heard from an international panel of distinguished experts and industry leaders discussing the economic impact of inaccessible solutions, how disability affects us all, and what is being done globally to close the accessibility gap.

The key messages that I took away from the session were:

-          We all have the potential to be disabled. We may not consider ourselves to have a disability now, but we’re only an illness or a falling tree branch away from something that could fundamentally change the way we interact with the world. Maybe if everyone realised that then accessibility wouldn’t just be a nice afterthought for so many organisations.

-          Accessibility has to start at the top and trickle down. If those responsible for accessibility are confined to a couple of dusty desks in a dark corner of the basement, no one will take them seriously and they’ll always be seen as a nuisance.

-          Businesses that are serious about accessibility need to make it a core part of their supplier management process. For example, when commissioning a new web platform, you need to be clear up front what accessible features you require, because it’s incredibly difficult to bolt things on afterwards.

-          It’s not enough to just look inwards. In Canada the main five high-street banks have organised an annual meeting where they get together to discuss how to overcome common issues related to accessibility. If we could organise something similar in the UK, we could work towards a common goal of making banking accessible to all.

Fortunately, Barclays is leading the way when it comes to accessibility with our innovations such as Talking ATMs, High Visibility Personalised Debit Cards, Sign Video on our branch iPads and our new customer-facing Accessibility App. With the CEO of the Retail Bank, Ashok Vaswani, championing accessibility right from the very top, we’ve already managed to implement most if not all of the best-practices spoken about during the conference, but we know that we’ve still got loads more to achieve, and I’m proud and excited to be part of one of the teams helping to drive that change.