Press release

la Caixa: improving access to financial services

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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la Caixa: improving access to financial services

• "la Caixa" was the first bank in Spain's to provide level A accessibility for its online banking service, Línea Abierta, and level AA for its website.

• With more than 9,600 ATMs, the largest such network in Spain, the bank is committed to developing and pioneering greater cashpoint accessibility in Europe via the APSIS4all project, run in partnership with Technosite, part of the ONCE group of businesses and Foundation and a specialist in accessible technology.

• "la Caixa" has launched a microsite called superandobarreras.com (overcoming barriers) featuring the stories of Juanjo and Montse, to draw attention to the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities.

www.overcomingbarriers.eu

There are more than four million people with disabilities in Spain, according to the 2012-2020 Spanish Disabilities Strategy, a figure that is set to grow due to population ageing. Action therefore needs to be taken to ensure access to services under equal conditions for all individuals, including financial services, as emphasised by the European Commission when it included electronic banking in its priorities for the Digital Agenda for Europe.

With this in mind, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, "la Caixa", overseen by Chairman Isidro Fainé and CEO Gonzalo Gortázar, is doing its part to draw attention to the need for improved access to financial services, such as withdrawing money from cashpoints or making online transfers. CaixaBank was the first bank to successfully ensure that all individuals are able to independently operate via its branches, ATMs, electronic banking platform and the website www.lacaixa.es.

Accessible website, electronic banking and branches

In 2004 this commitment to financial accessibility saw "la Caixa" become Spain's first bank to achieve level A accessibility for its online banking service, Línea Abierta, and level AA for its Internet website.

The bank is also running a project to guarantee that its branches are fully accessible. All steps have now been eliminated at more than 80% of "la Caixa" branches, while 30% have fully adapted 24-hour access areas, featuring ramps or elevators.

Furthermore, deaf customers, by advanced request, can benefit from video translations via webcam at "la Caixa" branches, ensuring they are able to communicate freely with staff.

APSIS4all project: accessible and customisable ATMs

"la Caixa", in partnership with Technosite, part of the ONCE Foundation group of companies and the provider of specialised accessible technologies, has developed a solution that allows all individuals to operate cashpoints independently. The project is known as APSIS4all and is financed by the European Commission, as part of its support for ICTs and the EU Competition And Innovation Framework Programme.

The aim of the project is to develop technology that will allow all individuals, regardless of their needs and preferences, to independently operate any ATM.

The APSIS4all project has led to a number of innovations being incorporated into cashpoints, including the following:

• An avatar that communicates in sign language to guide users through their transactions.

• Voice guided transactions via earphones, instead of graphic information.

• Keyboards designed to support individuals with visual difficulties, including special operations and larger numbers and letters to make them easier to see. The braille keyboard and audio, which provides the same information as appears on-screen, make ATMs easier to use for individuals with visual impairments.

• High text contrast screens, large buttons and keyboard navigation.

• Support for contactless cards that do not have to be physically inserted into the machines, making them easier and faster to use. When the contactless reader recognises the card it immediately activates the user identification system and the usual operating interface.

At present 97% of the "la Caixa" ATM network, made up of over 9,600 cashpoints, offers sign language services and support for individuals with visual disabilities. 2 out of 3 already include the entire range of functions developed as part of the APSIS4all project, while there are plans to extend these benefits to all remaining cashpoints by the end of 2016.

Overcoming barriers

As part of efforts to draw attention to financial accessibility issues, "la Caixa" today launched a new microsite, www.superandobarreras.com (overcoming barriers). Users of the site will be able to hear from Juanjo and Montse, who discuss the difficulties they face performing everyday tasks such as withdrawing money from cash machines or catching a bus.

Juanjo Montiel is 30 years old and has total visual impairment. Technology has played an essential role in allowing him to live an independent life. "A world in which the diversity of individuals is considered from the outset and in which things are designed with this diversity in mind will be a more accessible world, and one in which everyone is able to live independently. That's what I would like", says Juanjo.

Montse Gracia is 58 years old and for the last 3 years has been unable to move her legs due to a poliomyelitis infection. For this basketball player, who even competed in the Barcelona 92 Paralympic Games, being able to use an ATM on her own is indispensable. "I'm the first to ask for help when I need it, but I want to be able to withdraw money on my own", Montse explains.