Innovative Practice 2018 on Accessibility

Bank employees provide sign language services to customers

UniCredit Bank Austria, a major Austrian banking group, introduced Smart Banking in Sign Language nationwide in 2015. They are the first and only financial institution in Austria to provide advice on banking products in Austrian Sign Language. Initially cooperating with the Service Centre of the Austrian Sign Language Society, UniCredit Bank Austria is now using their own employed sign language interpreters to translate banking service for their deaf and hearing-impaired clients. Three sales managers are available for consultation in sign language as part of the ‘online branch’.

“It is a beautiful experience and is important for me to be able to communicate with my clients in their own language! That is why I learned sign language. It creates trust, the base for any successful professional advice.”

Gabriella StuhrSmartBanking Sales Manager, UniCredit Bank Austria
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Bank employees provide sign language services to customers
Organisation:UniCredit Bank Austria
Country
of Implementation
Austria

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Three sales managers available to offer consultations and services in sign language via webcams throughout Austria, regardless of location.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

About 10,000 people in Austria communicate through sign language. For the deaf or hearing-impaired, sign language is often the only possibility for accessible and comprehensive communication.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

Since 2015, UniCredit Bank Austria has been offering Austria-wide consultations for customers in the form of sign language via video calls. The concept allows for a variety of transactions (e.g., investment strategy, real estate financing, loan transactions, pension insurance plans, savings, etc.) to be performed, and is available from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. by appointment.
The key innovative of “Smart Banking in Sign Language” is its availability via webcams, thus making the process independent of going to a physical location, as well as making the self-organization of sign language translation obsolete. Since most deaf or hearing-impaired persons are at ease with the use of such visual communication channels, the barrier to using this service is low.
Two women in the bank and a woman communicating with a woman on via webchat using sign language.Three sales managers are available for consultation in sign language as part of the ‘online branch’, with one soon to become a state-certified sign language interpreter, allowing consultations with banking experts to be interpreted. UniCredit Bank Austria is making an important step in raising awareness of the needs of deaf people in Austria Due to the bank’s personal data policy, information about the number of users is not publicly available.

OUTLOOK, TRANSFERABILITY AND FUNDING

UniCredit Bank Austria is further developing its accessibility in other aspects of bank activities, starting with fully accessible bank branches, websites, online banking, forms, and A woman in the bank communicating with another woman via webchat using sign language.information materials. One of the three sales managers working on this project will soon be a state-certified sign language interpreter and will not only be able to advise in sign language, but also interpret consultations with the bank’s experts, such as in real estate and investments, for deaf clients.
There are no costs for the customer, neither for the advice in sign language nor for the sign language interpreter. At the start of the project, external sign language interpreters were hired and paid by Bank Austria, whereas now customer support and translations are carried out by the bank’s own staff.
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