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Diversity, equity & inclusion

Living with a visual impairment

This Global Accessibility Awareness Day, hear from our colleague Leigh Holloway on living with visual impairment Retinitis Pigmentosa, and find out how we’re becoming more accessible for our customers. 

Despite the challenges, I’ve had time to adjust, compared to others who are diagnosed later in life.

Living with uncertainty

I was born with a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which causes the cells in the retina to slowly die - and once they're gone, they’re gone for good. First you start to lose your night vision, then your peripheral vision, then eventually your central vision. At the moment, I can look ahead and see people in my central vision, but not as clearly as most other people could.

Although a degenerative condition, symptoms and progression vary vastly from person to person, so I’ve learned to live with this uncertainty. I get side effects like being more sensitive to screen glare, which can bring on migraines. I've also got cataracts in both eyes, with the left one more severe than the right.

Despite the challenges though, I’ve had time to adjust, compared to others who are diagnosed later in life. My mum always did a great job of managing my expectations of what I could and couldn’t do in life. It wasn’t about stopping me doing things – as a kid I was in the Scouts and played sports just like everyone else. But I always knew I probably wouldn’t be able to drive a car for example, which I’m still not allowed to do because of my vision.

 

Life at NatWest Group

I joined the bank in Southampton in February 2015. A job then came up in the city centre branch in Bristol where I was looking to move, so I interviewed and got the job, moved that November and I’ve been here ever since. My managers are amazing, genuinely amazing. I’m really prone to walking into things or tripping over things that are left on the floor. So my team are great at keeping the place really clear of obstacles.

One referral for a workplace assessment by my manager has helped me so much inside and outside work.

What’s really great is that when my manager has changed over the years, they’ve done a good handover so they’ve always known about my condition and just kept it going. One of my previous managers arranged a formal workplace assessment which has led to benefits not just at work but away from work too.

The assessment recommended equipment they thought I would benefit from, including a portable keypad I use for keying counter transactions as I really struggle with the number keys along the top of a standard keyboard. They also referred me to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) which helped with things outside of work, including putting me in touch with my local council who helped me order and train to use a long cane and there’s now a team I can call if I need to replace any parts of my cane in future. So, one referral for a workplace assessment by my manager has helped me so much inside and outside work.

I’ve also had a lot of support from across the bank including the Enable Disability and Neurodiversity Network, which supports colleagues by promoting awareness of disability and neurodiversity and celebrating the diversity and strengths they bring. I’ve become an Enable network ambassador and look forward to giving back to others, as the support I’ve received has been invaluable.

As well as supporting colleagues, we’re committed to becoming more accessible for our customers. Take a look at some of our recent updates:

 

  • Updated biometrics - We’ve updated the biometric security in our Retail Mobile app, by removing the need to blink during Face Biometric approval. Now customers can complete the approval process by holding the device still, making it easier for customers with limited motor skills.
  • AI assistant Cora - We’ve also enabled Retail Banking customers to control elements of their interactions with our AI virtual assistant Cora, such as changing the speed of responses as well as the window and text size to aid readability.
  • Braille handrail - for our branch network and physical spaces, we're introducing a specific change for blind and partially sighted customers and colleagues – a braille handrail that provides helpful directions to create an improved experience that is both highly visible and tactile. It attaches to an existing handrail and is also sustainable due to its manufacturing techniques using 3-D printing technology and recycled plastic.

The material published on this page is for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice, or used by consumers to make financial decision. Terms and conditions apply to any products or services mentioned.

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