Can we Bank on Anna Bligh bringing the “Absolutely Everybody” stamp to her new role?

When she was Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh championed the state’s “Absolutely everybody” disability policy, saying that “a Queensland that is inclusive and accessible to all community members will be better for everyone.”

The “Absolutely Everybody” theme was based on the popular song by Vanessa Amorosi, featured in her 1999 album, “The Power”.

In February 2017, Anna Bligh was appointed CEO of the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA).

After publishing our first editorial on CommBank’s Albert EFTPOS tablet way back in September 2015, we were invited to an interview with the ABA and informed that their Industry Standards on Accessibility of Electronic Banking, introduced in 2002, were currently under review.  The ABA further informed us that they would be consulting with stakeholders on updating these standards to ensure the ongoing accessibility of banking in a digitally changing environment (with hopes that the review would be completed by mid-2016).  Some twelve months later we had heard nothing further, so reached out to the ABA and were advised in December 2016 that the review was still underway and that we would receive an invite early in the New Year with a copy of the draft principles for comment.  Upon receiving in late January we were disappointed that this redrafting had replaced the standards with “Guiding Principles for Accessibility”, so in effect what would appear to be a watering down, upsetting at a time when more and more inaccessible EFTPOS terminals and other devices used in retail are being released onto the market totally unregulated.

We have since submitted our response to the ABA’s draft of their “Accessibility Guiding Principles for banking services” highlighting our concerns that they fall well short of providing an effective pathway to Accessible Banking Products and Services.

We are sadly unable to share our set out concerns, and our recommendations, until the Principles have been finalised which will not be until at least mid-year.  Rest assured though, in our usual way we have provided open, constructive feedback, with the objective of assisting the ABA and its member banks to better serve the community, especially people with disability, older persons and others who experience barriers to inclusion in the digital transformation era.

What we can explain to our faithful readers here, however, is the difference between Standards and Guiding Principles.

Principles are quite different from both rules and standards – at least from a legal standpoint.  Both rules and standards provide a framework that is, in theory, sufficient for resolving a particular issue in a legal dispute, whereas the term, “principle” only provides guidance for the interpretation or application of a rule or standard. Principles by themselves do not resolve legal issues.

We can also cite the following information on the benefits of standards from the Standards Australia website:

“Australian Standards ensure goods and services consistently perform the way they are intended. They support the economy, improve safety and health, use our national resources more efficiently and improve our quality of life.

  1. Standards give businesses and consumers’ confidence that the goods and services they are developing or using are safe, reliable and will do the job they were intended for.
  2. Standards provide a platform on which to build new and exciting ideas. As our world changes, new Standards are introduced to reflect the latest technologies, innovations and community needs – redundant Standards are discarded.
  3. Products that comply with Australian Standards have a competitive edge over products that don’t – consumers know the difference. Australian exporters using international Standards have a head start when they move into overseas markets.
  4. Standards ensure products manufactured in one country can be sold and used in another. Standards reduce technical barriers to international trade, increase the size of potential markets and position Australian firms to compete in the world economy.

Standards help make laws and regulations consistent across Australia. Standards offer an alternative to regulation, with less red tape and business costs, while still providing security for families and small business consumers.”

On 15 April 2002, when Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM, Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner, launched the inaugural ABA’s Standards for making electronic based services more accessible to people with disabilities and older Australians, there was a resounding note of optimism in his address, and a sense of commitment from the ABA and its member banks to meet the challenge of implementing the standards.  It was evident that a lot of hard work and collaboration between the ABA, the banks and community stakeholders had gone into developing the standards.  And generally speaking, the standards led to marked improvements for accessible banking services in the intervening years.

The challenge for Anna Bligh now is to ensure that the ABA invests in accessibility of banking services for Absolutely Everybody.  You can perhaps start helping her in her new role by signing our petition.