The press release posted below was issued as a result of a 2001 Settlement Agreement negotiated using Structured Negotiations. In the Agreement, Fleet agreed to make its web site accessible, install over one thousand Talking ATMs, and implement a comprehensive alternative format policy. Lainey was co-counsel with Stan Eichner of the Disability Law Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Claimants in the case included the Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB), the American Council of the Blind’s Massachusetts affiliate.
Fleet and Disability Law Center Announces Plans to Install 1,420 Talking ATMs, The First in the Region
Blind Athletes Marla Runyan and Rob Walsh Speak at the Perkins School for the Blind
Boston, MA (Feb. 28, 2001) — In a major initiative to make banking services more accessible to millions of people who are blind or visually impaired, Fleet and the Boston-based Disability Law Center (DLC) today announced a comprehensive plan to ensure that persons with vision impairments, including the growing number of senior citizens, can more conveniently access banking services at Fleet. The plan includes installation of the first talking ATMs in New York and New England, a program to enhance access to printed materials, and improved Web site accessibility.
Marla Runyan, a runner and the first blind athlete to compete on the U.S. Olympic Team, and Rob Walsh, the first U.S. blind skier to win a gold medal in international competition, joined Fleet and other disability advocates in making the announcement at a news conference today at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., the first school for the blind in the United States. Runyan and Walsh met with visually impaired students and staff from the Perkins School, including members of the ski and track & field teams, and spoke about their accomplishments as blind athletes.
More than 16 Fleet talking ATMs are already installed and operating in Massachusetts. The total of talking ATMs, which provide audio instructions over a headset, will increase to more than 150 throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and the metropolitan New York area by the end of the year. Over the next two years, Fleet will complete the installation of 1,420 talking ATMs throughout its Northeast retail service area, from Maine to Pennsylvania.
Fleet worked closely with representatives of the blindness community, the Disability Law Center, and California disability rights lawyer Lainey Feingold, to develop a plan to effectively meet the needs of this important and underserved segment of consumers.
We are very excited that Fleet has so enthusiastically demonstrated its commitment to improving accessibility for blind and visually impaired people, and we applaud their efforts”, — Kim Charlson, Bay State Council of the Blind representative
In addition to Kim Charlson, who has been actively involved in the initiative announced today, other representatives present at the announcement included the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, Sight Loss Services, and numerous individuals with vision impairments.
“With today’s announcement, Fleet is taking a leadership role within the banking industry,” said Disability Law Center Managing Attorney Stanley J. Eichner. We hope that other financial institutions follow in Fleet’s footsteps. Also working on this matter for the DLC was Jane K. Alper, senior attorney.
“Fleet is vigorously committed to meeting the diverse needs of all our customers and to building accessibility into the fabric of our organization, at virtually every point that we connect with our customers, whether that is at an ATM or branch, in writing or through the Internet”, said Robert Hedges, senior vice president and managing director of Retail Distribution at Fleet. “Though our ATMs have Braille instructions, the talking ATMs we are installing will create even greater access for people who cannot easily read information as it is currently presented on our ATMs. ”
Fleet Talking ATMs
Fleet’s Talking ATMs will be equipped with universal audio jacks, and the bank will provide listening devices to persons with vision impairments through which they can receive private audio instructions for transactions typically displayed on the ATM screen for cash withdrawals, balance inquiries, transfers & payments and deposits. Fleet is upgrading existing ATMs that have been developed by leading ATM manufacturers NCR Corporation and Diebold Corporation. Both companies’ ATMs will be included in the pilot phase. Both NCR and Diebold are actively involved in the development of ATMs that are voice-guided and/or use other adaptive technologies. To locate the nearest Fleet talking ATM, consumers may call Fleet Customer Service 24 hours a day at 1-800-841-4000. A complete list of talking ATM locations will later be available on the Fleet Web site.
Other components of Fleet’s accessibility initiative
Fleet has long been a leader in accommodating the needs of persons with visual impairments, and today’s announcement expands that commitment. In addition to installing talking ATMs, Fleet will now provide important financial materials including statements, brochures and other account information in Braille, audiocassette, and large print formats. The bank also is designing and generating each page of its website (www.fleet.com) to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Web design features will enable computer users who are blind and who use screen reader technology on their computers to access Fleet’s website.
It is estimated that over 1 million Americans are legally blind and another 12 million Americans experience some form of irreversible visual impairment. As many as 75,000 Americans become blind each year, and the visually impaired category increases by 120,000. The fastest growing segment of this population is the elderly, who are at the greatest risk of developing degenerative eye disease.
The Perkins School for the Blind, founded in 1829, extends its educational and rehabilitative expertise for the benefit of the blind, deaf blind and multi-handicapped worldwide in order that each individual may realize their potential and maintain their independence, no matter what age.
The Disability Law Center (DLC) is responsible for Protecting and Advocating for the rights of Massachusetts residents with disabilities and dedicated to expanding opportunities for people with disabilities to live full and independent lives by providing legal representation and information about their legal rights.
Fleet Boston Financial is the eighth-largest financial holding company in the United States. A $179 billion diversified financial services company, it offers a comprehensive array of innovative financial solutions to 20 million customers in more than 20 countries and territories. Among the company’s key lines of business are: retail banking, with over 1,200 branches and nearly 3,400 ATMs in the Northeast; commercial banking, including capital markets/investment banking and commercial finance; investment services, including discount brokerage; and full-service banking through more than 250 offices in Latin America. Fleet Boston Financial is headquartered in Boston and listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: FBF) and the Boston Stock Exchange (BSE: FBF).
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Stanley J. Eichner
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