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World Down Syndrome Day 2020 – Day 15

Making banking inclusive

by Dan Vittorio

When businesses consider the diverse needs of their customers, it is possible to create spaces that benefit everyone.

Beyond Bank has a proud 60-year history of supporting customers and our local communities. Through important partnerships with local and national community groups, we have gained valuable insights as to the different needs of our customers.  From this, we sought to change the way we do things and design a unique branch that truly puts the customer first.

Almost 20% of the Australian population has a disability* (nearly 4 million people).  This number will further increase as our population ages.  To accommodate the needs of our customers with a disability, our first priority was to make banking as accessible as possible.

To determine how best we could achieve this, we consulted with our community partners who help those with a disability on a daily basis. Groups such as Dementia Australia, ACT Down Syndrome Association, Marymead Autism Centre and Getaboutable all kindly volunteered their time to consult with us and co-design our new Canberra City branch.

The branch design was quite different to Beyond Bank’s standard refurbishments, requiring a review of layout, textures, colours, lighting, flooring and signage.

Major changes include:

  • Replacing dark carpet with lighter coloured flooring which improves depth perception for people with dementia.
  • Removing laminated countertops and installing stone and timber surfaces which make physical contact with the teller less confronting for those living with dementia.
  • Installing soundproofing in meeting rooms which minimises external noise that can often cause confusion and stress.
  • Installing dimmable lighting technology and curtains which makes the banking environment less likely to over-stimulate the senses.
  • Providing a hearing loop for our hearing-impaired customers.
  • Clearly worded signage in a simple font with images to direct customers to key zones within the branch.
  • Lowering teller counter heights to allow easier access for customers in wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
  • Staff training programs to educate our people on the best ways to assist customers with dementia, autism or other disabilities.

The wide-ranging collaboration has included people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, multiple sclerosis and other physical disabilities, Down syndrome and those on the autism spectrum. The resulting branch has received fantastic feedback from our members.

A review of the design and functionality of the new branch will be undertaken to determine successes and any elements that may need to be changed and then applied to future branch refurbishments.

*www.humanrights.gov.au

Dan Vittorio manages Beyond Bank's national property and facilities portfolio.

Katie Senior has Down syndrome and, together with Gemma Francescangeli from ACTDSA, consulted on the project by sharing her lived experience of disability. In a report on the project by Genevieve Jacobs from RIOTACT, Katie says that it can be “pretty hectic” being in a bank space so the modifications that can make the space calmer are welcomed by people with Down syndrome.

You can see the report below:

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