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A touch of innovation: Westpac unveils new card designs

10:30am June 07 2023

Westpac's updated suite of cards will enable customers to distinguish between their payment cards using touch alone.

Westpac will offer greater accessibility for its blind and low vision customers with the introduction of an updated suite of cards, which will enable customers to distinguish between their payment cards using touch alone. 

The set of credit, debit, and pre-paid cards, to be progressively rolled out, will use Mastercard’s Touch Card™ feature: an accessible system of cards with tactile notches.

The unique notches – square for credit card, round for debit card and triangular for pre-paid card – will be accompanied by braille markers, further helping customers identify and position the card correctly when making payments or using an ATM.

The roll-out is part of Westpac’s broader strategy to develop products that are accessible to all customers, says Annabel Fribence, Westpac’s chief brand and marketing officer.

“This builds on a range of initiatives we already have in place such as accessibility mode on all our EFTPOS Now terminals, online applications that meet accessibility requirements and accessible digital card functionality when customers use voice-over and talk back.”

Approximately 4.4 million Australians have a disability, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and a further 5.5 million have a long-term health condition. 

“Whether it’s disability, illness, or injury, it’s going to impact all of us at some point in our life,” Majella Knobel, Westpac’s access and inclusion director, said in an interview with Wire. 

“It means we will all encounter barriers to products, services, and experiences throughout our lives. Ensuring we are well educated and knowledgeable is key to reducing some of those barriers and making sure people can access what they need to access.”

Knobel, who lost her vision in her early 20s due to an aggressive autoimmune disease, says that the roll-out of the cards will benefit more than just the primary group of customers with limited or no vision.

“My team is conscious about thinking outside of the box. If we are designing something for a specific disability within the community, we think about how that will also benefit other individuals.

“I’ve witnessed it first hand – we’ll roll out a product or service and people will reach out saying that while they don’t have disability or accessibility requirement, they have benefited from the design,” says Knobel, who in June was named a Changemaker of the Year by the Australian Network on Disability. 

“Knowing that more people can identify and orient their cards using only touch – that’s powerful. Thinking more broadly about who your customer base is – not just focusing on one group – means that we’re one step closer to making payments more accessible for everyone.”

Majella Knobel, Westpac's access and inclusion director, says that everyone needs to be thinking about accessibility. (Emma Foster)

Blind Citizens Australia chief executive officer, Sally Aurisch, says that it’s encouraging to see innovative features being used that make accessibility a priority.

“Measures like [the new card features] can go a long way in giving customers who are blind or vision impaired that extra bit of confidence and independence when stepping up to the payment counter.”

Knobel’s team is involved in the research, design, and testing of new products and services, but she adds that accessibility ultimately sits with everyone. 

“Each person’s needs are individual, and trying to meet everyone’s requirements is challenging. But our team gives it a good hard go. The more people who are thinking about accessibility at the outset, the more likely we are to get it right.” 

Kripa Krithivasan joined Westpac Wire in 2022 as a News Reporter. After starting her career at Westpac in 2016, Kripa took some time off to host one of Australia’s most popular podcasts for South Asian Australians, Uncultured the Podcast, and is passionate about giving marginalised voices a platform. When she’s not at work, Kripa dabbles in a bit of stand-up comedy and Bharatnatyam - classical Indian dance.

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