New keypads of little benefit to some

HUNDREDS of people with impaired vision could be denied access to their pensions and benefits, the Ipswich Blind Society claimed today.From April the familiar benefit books are being phased out in favour of direct payments into post office or bank accounts under a new Government scheme.

HUNDREDS of people with impaired vision could be denied access to their pensions and benefits, the Ipswich Blind Society claimed today.

From April the familiar benefit books are being phased out in favour of direct payments into post office or bank accounts under a new Government scheme. To withdraw money from the post office a PIN number will have to be entered into a keypad at the counter.

Dennis Keeble, a member of the Ipswich Blind Society is concerned that visually impaired people won't be able to use the keypads.

"It's absolutely ridiculous. The design is just dreadful. The keys aren't even raised very well, there isn't enough space between them and the display screens are tiny. And those who can't remember the number can hardly write it down for security!"

The Kesgrave pensioner, who has very little sight, is also worried that people with arthritis and wheelchair users will have difficulty using the new system.

He said: "I am angry because I need cash and the only alternative is to have the money paid into my bank in Ipswich. This will involve travelling by bus into town every time I need some money.

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"My advice for anyone with a sight problem is to continue using their order book or giro cheque and not be pressured into changing. I think there could be a strong challenge under the Discrimination and Disability Act."

Steve Winyard, head of publicity at the RNIB, said: "We have pointed out to the Post Office that the PIN pad is not accessible to visually impaired, disabled or older people. Unless an improved version is introduced or other easier ways of accessing benefits made available, many thousands of blind and partially sighted pensioners could face terrible difficulties."

Naomi Evans, of the Royal Mail group, said: "We accept that the pin pads we have installed in branches to enable people to withdraw their pensions and benefits from April 2003 are not suitable for all our customers and for the concern this has caused them.

"We are going to address these concerns and will be working with RNIB in particular to make improvements.

"Every customer is important to us and we want to make this service as accessible as possible so that we can successfully introduce a modern and secure way of banking and collecting benefits and pensions at Post Office branches."

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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