Re-imagining approaches to accessibility

Speaking the customer's language: To help deliver a more flexible banking experience for the Deaf community, TD recently introduced an ASL interpretation feature in its branch locations that provides customers with access to on-demand, two-way ASL interpretation.

Imagine if every time you went into a bank branch you had to do your banking in the dark, or you were forced to communicate with a teller who couldn't speak your language.  

Every day, Canadians with disabilities face challenges just like these when they try and perform everyday tasks – going to the bank, using public transportation, navigating communication technologies and seeking employment.

And, while the introduction of new legislation aimed at advancing accessibility standards for people with disabilities later this year is expected to help millions of Canadians, the reality is that private organizations across the country have a responsibility to build a vision of accessibility into their business practices and decision-making processes.   

For Shannon McGinnis, Chair of TD's Accessibility Committee, strong corporate citizenship is a key ingredient for advancing accessibility.

"Our goal is to be a leader in accessibility for our customers and employees," McGinnis said. "It's an ongoing journey and while there is always more work to do, we are starting important conversations and building allies and engagement through a variety of initiatives."

Adding accessible audio to ATMs: At the majority of TD ATMs, customers can choose to complete their banking tasks using headphones and audio guidance service. Customers can also request personal account statements in Braille or large print.

Earlier this month, TD introduced an American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation feature on iPads within its Canadian branches, offering the Deaf and hard of hearing community greater flexibility for banking, as well as the opportunity for individuals to fully express themselves more easily.

"Until recently, people needed to book a sign language interpreter two-to-three weeks in advance just to complete routine banking transactions," said Nancy Goduto, Partner Service Representative at TD who is part of the Deaf community.

"With the ASL interpretation feature, customers who are Deaf or hard of hearing will be able to do simple, every day banking tasks in real-time, which is important in financially stressful situations."

The ASL interpretation feature is the latest demonstration of TD's commitment to inclusion and equal access.

In December 2017, TD began participating in a pilot project with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), introducing an assistive tech­nology – BlindSquare event app – for individuals who are blind or partially sighted at the Bank's Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue branch in Toronto.

"The project has generated very positive response and demand," Shane Laurnitus, Lead, Accessible Technology at CNIB said. "It's providing users with a new sense of independence, while helping foster a neighbourhood that accommodates different needs."

Navigating public spaces: TD is part of a CNIB pilot project in Toronto's Yonge St. and St. Clair neighbourhood that provides assistive technology to help individuals who are blind or partially sighted navigate the local branch and other public spaces in the area.

With the support of local businesses, people who are blind or partially sighted can access battery-powered beacons that send verbal navigational messages to the BlindSquare event app user's mobile device when they enter the branch location.

"The CNIB is working to expand the program on a much broader-scale," said Laurnitus.   

Across the organization, TD has taken a number of steps to create a workplace that considers everyone's unique needs, and celebrates differences; steering conversations toward individual abilities versus disabilities.

Members of TD’s People with Disability network are actively engaged in testing new products, services and solutions for customers such as touchscreen ATMs.

Testing and learning for a more inclusive future: In 2006, TD founded an Assistive Technologies (AT) team and now has a state-of-the-art research lab focused on providing technology to help improve accessibility.

What's more, TD has a dedicated Assistive Technologies lab focused on research, development and testing new technologies designed to improve accessibility for employees, including Microsoft® Office 365, which is accessible by design.

"To be successful and truly inclusive, we need to engage all backgrounds, skillsets and perspectives, and find ways to harness peoples’ talents and unique skills," McGinnis said. “Global Accessibility Awareness Day provides all of us with an opportunity to get the world talking about accessibility.”

May 17 marks Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which is aimed at drawing attention to the creation of online, mobile and other technological experiences that are more inclusive. To learn more, register to attend a global Empower Every Person webcast.