53. Access to products and services - disability
54. Access to premises - disability
Context The Co-operative Bank has reported on the accessibility of products, services and premises since 2000. For the first time this year, CIS reports on the accessibility of its products, services and premises. CIS and the bank provide a range of banking, insurance and investment products to more than seven million customers. Whilst CFS has started to market insurance products to banking customers and vice versa; during 2003, customer bases and the majority of service channels remained distinct to each business.
Recognition In 2003, the Employers' Forum on Disability ranked the bank third (2002: second) and CIS fifth in its second annual Global Inclusion Benchmarki. The Benchmark examines how companies communicate their commitment to disabled people when they describe their impact on employees, customers, suppliers and the wider community.
Legislation, governance and policy As required by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), from October 1999, service providers such as banks and insurers are required to take reasonable steps to change any policies, procedures or practices that make it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of their services in the UK. The final part of the Act comes into force in October 2004, and requires service providers to have made 'reasonable adjustments' to those features of premises that may act as physical barriers to access. During 2003, new Diversity governance and strategy proposals were developed for CFS. Ken Lewis, Resources Director, has responsibility for diversity across the organisation. A CFS Sustainability Steering Committee was established late in 2003. Details of the CFS Sustainability Steering Committee are described here. Diversity Working Groups, focusing on specific priority areas, will support the Steering Committee.
Staff training During 2003, the bank completed its programme of DDA training for all bank staff. DDA training forms part of induction training for new starters in Customer Services Division and will be repeated for Customer Services staff on an annual cycle. A training programme for CIS staff was carried out in 2000; and this was supplemented in 2002 with more general diversity training. During 2003, bespoke training courses were also delivered within areas where specific needs have been identified (e.g., RNID ran a deaf awareness course for a team in the Life and Savings Business Unit). Additional training support will be provided as required during 2004, through the delivery of a new disability awareness training package developed by the Employers' Forum on Disability.
Products and services CIS and the bank offer products and services through a wide range of different service channels. This variety helps to ensure that customers are able to access services in a way that suits them. Through the network of Financial Advisers, a range of CIS products and a selection of bank products is available throughout the UK. This 'home service' option can help to overcome many of the access barriers that some customers may encounter.
Accessible information Customer information is available in a range of accessible formats, including Braille, large print and audio tape. For deaf, hard of hearing customers and customers without speech, a textphone (minicom) service and typetalk is available in the CIS and bank Customer Service Centres. During 2003, the bank and smile regularly provided information in alternative formats to 138 customers (2002:70) and dealt with 400 additional requests for information. Five customers were provided with signature stamps for cheques. CIS provided information in an alternative format in response to 165 requests, of which 97 were in Braille, 44 in large print and 24 were audio tapes. It is recognised that with more than seven million customers, there are many more individuals who could benefit from these services. The availability of customer literature in alternative formats will be promoted during 2004. A customer summary of this Sustainability Report is available in thirteen different languages, as detailed here.
Websites Work is still ongoing to ensure that the CIS, bank and smile websites are compliant with the first level ('Level A') of the W3C Web Access Initiative Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0,ii which are widely regarded as the international standard for website accessibility. In August 2003, the Internet Banking service for the bank's personal customers was re-launched on the bank's website. This new and improved service meets W3C 'Level A', as does the vast majority of the bank's website. During 2003, smile continued improving the accessibility of its website to ensure that the vast majority of the smile website, including banking functionality, is compliant by October 2004. The majority of the CIS website meets the W3C 'Level A' accessibility standards. Work is continuing to improve the accessibility of functional areas of the website (e.g., motor insurance quotes).
Premises CIS and the bank operate from more than 300 premises in the UK. In line with the requirements of the DDA, a programme of accessibility audits has been undertaken for the majority of premises, and an improvement programme is underway. Progress as at March 2004 is as follows:
Assurance on the data and commentary detailed within this Report is provided by justassurance, in accordance with the AA1000 Assurance Standard. Follow this link for the auditors' assurance statement