This particular branch of Chase Bank has several features that support and enhance the experience of deaf and hard of hearing visitors. For instance, customers have access to digital screens with captions and an on-demand video interpreting service. Additionally, patrons can receive financial planning guidance from employees who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL.)
“This is a strategic and important location for us.”
The branch is located near Gallaudet University, a university in which programs are designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. There were even meetings between the school and the bank’s construction and design teams to properly plan the location’s design.
One of the bank’s employees, Paula Sorto, is hard of hearing and has worked in the banking industry for 15 years. Prior to working at this branch, she says she felt removed from daily occurrences in the office such as business meetings due to her hearing loss.
“Typically I would be isolated, sitting back, and asking other employees, ‘What did they say?’ and they would write side notes,” Sorto also told WAMU radio. “And I really didn’t ever truly feel like I connected with the companies that I worked for in the past, but this company has empowered me to do my job.”
It’s worth noting that not all of the customers who come into the bank are deaf or hard of hearing. One hearing customer even recounts to WAMU radio her experience at the bank.
“Everybody was nice, if anything, more smiley and welcoming when I came in. It was a perfectly smooth experience, just like going to any other bank that I’ve been to,” she said.
Aside from being handed a tablet by one of the bank’s employees and asked to write down the reason for her visit, the customer says there was nothing different about this bank experience compared with her visits at others.
As of now, the Chase branch on H street is the only one of its kind but plans to open another similar branch are in the works.
Many other banks offer accessibility services for their deaf and hard of hearing customers.
Bank of America provides sign language interpreters at their financial centers and home loan offices free of charge. If this is a service you’d like to use, please connect with your financial center or home loans office so an appointment with an interpreter may be scheduled. Additionally, Bank of America offers telecommunication devices (TDD) and text teletype (TTY) phone numbers.
Customers of TD Bank who are deaf or hard of hearing can dial 711 to use TTY or a Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS), or use a preferred relay service to connect to TD at 1-866-251-3552.
Apple Bank provides text transmitter equipment. Deaf, hard of hearing and those with speech disabilities should contact CustomerLine via TDD at 800-824-0710 to ask about access to Apple Bank’s products and services. CustomerLine agents can also assist relay service operators. In other words, they will communicate in person by exchanging notes if the customer is comfortable with that approach. Alternatively, Apple Bank will attempt to provide a sign language interpreter.
Deaf and hard of hearing customers of US Bank can connect with customer service through Telecommunications Relay Services or via teletypewriter (TDD/TYY) services as listed on their Customer Service for Personal Banking page.
Not too long ago, Barclays in the UK announced a service for their deaf and hard of hearing customers that allows them to have their telephone conversations with the bank interpreted by a lipspeaker (a hearing person who can assist in communication support by being easily lip read).
Many banks, including Bank of America and Capital One, offer LIVE online chat support which can be a huge help if you wish to avoid the phone altogether. If you’re wondering if your bank offers accessibility services, we recommend you check your bank’s website or call your local branch.
Read more: How to choose a deaf-friendly bank