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Autism “Champions” to make banking easier

17 September 2020

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  • Almost 80% of people on the autism spectrum struggle with their financial wellbeing
  • Nearly two thirds find bank branches intimidating
  • Half of autistic adults want more support from their banks

Dedicated autism champions and regular bank branch “quiet hours” are two of the key recommendations in a major study into the banking needs of Australians on the autism spectrum.

The Inclusive Banking for Autistic Adults 2020 research has revealed that a staggering number of people on the autism spectrum are either struggling to cope or just managing their personal finances on a day-to-day basis.

Conducted by researchers from the Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice (ARCAP) and funded by a grant from Beyond Bank Australia, the study’s key goals were to understand more about the financial and banking experiences of adults on the autism spectrum and to identify what banks can do to become more “autism friendly”.

Surveying autistic adults, between the ages of 18-69 and the parents of autistic adults (with children on the autism spectrum aged between 18-32 years), the study identified three main banking issues in need of urgent review:

  • Problems associated with going into a bank branch (64%)
  • Difficulty filling in forms (53%)
  • Trouble understanding brochures (44%)

“Having access to everyday products and services, such as banking is an essential part of being independent and being able to participate fully in the community,” said ARCAP Researcher, Vicki Gibbs.

“However, for many people on the autism spectrum, navigating the world of banking can be overwhelming and intimidating.

“Understanding what it is that banks can do to be more accessible is an important and positive step towards further inclusivity and financial independence for people with a hidden disability.”

Beyond Bank Australia, as one of Australia’s largest customer-owned banks, already has a proven track record of providing support to those living with a disability with a staged roll-out of “disability-friendly” branches across its national network.

It said the findings should be a wake-up call to all financial institutions that banking must be made available for everyone regardless of their personal circumstances.

“Financial wellbeing and the freedom and independence that comes with that, is more important than ever before and banks have a real opportunity and indeed, responsibility, to ensure that banking is inclusive for all Australians,” said Mr Robert Keogh, Chief Executive Officer, Beyond Bank Australia.

“Through our experience in Canberra where we opened our first disability-friendly branch, just over a year ago, we have learned that a few simple changes are often all that needs to happen to achieve this really important outcome.”

Some of those changes include training up key branch personnel to act as autism champions so that they have the appropriate communication skills to explain banking products and services in a way that is clear and nonthreatening.

The implementation of quiet hours where branches set aside regular times for people with sensory issues to attend in a calming environment with modified lighting and appropriate sound limits is another key recommendation.

ARCAP Researcher Vicki Gibbs said she was really pleased to see Beyond Bank taking the recommendations from the research on board, and genuinely looking for opportunities to make a difference.

“Every small step taken by a bank towards accommodating a person with a disability, is just such a huge step towards greater independence for a person on the autism spectrum.”

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