MONTPELIER, Vt. – Several local banks and one credit union here have been charged with not doing enough to accommodate the visually impaired with their usage of automated teller machines, according to a complaint filed with the state’s Human Rights Commission. The complaint charges Chittenden Bank, Howard Bank, Northfield Savings Bank and the Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU) with failing to install audio capabilities with ATMs that already have Braille instructions on or near their numerical pads. The filers contend that by installing audio ATMs with jacks so a customer can plug in an earphone, visually impaired customers would be better accommodated. At least four visually impaired persons including B.J. Patterson, president of the Vermont chapter of the National Federation of the Blind filed the complaint after the financial institutions failed to make the machines more accessible. Patterson said attorneys for the national organization, based in Baltimore are currently working with all parties in “good faith negotiations.” “I’m hopeful that the negotiations will be able to resolve the matter,” said Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, an attorney representing the national organization. Patterson said what prompted the complaint was hearing that banks such as Fleet Bank, Bank of America and others already have the audio ATMs in 19 states including Illinois, New York and Florida. “I’ve talked to many people who’ve said it would be nice to have these because they always have to end up taking someone with them,” Patterson said. “And of course, the information on the ATM screen is totally inaccessible.” She added the ATMs would be “extremely helpful” when traveling, during medical emergencies and paying taxi fare – “especially when you need money in the evenings.” Jean Shiner, one of the persons filing the complaint, and a member of VSECU, “loves her credit union,” but decided “action wouldn’t happen until legal action happened.” “I’ve been with my credit union since 1995, I have my mortgage with them,” Shiner said. “The audio ATMs will only enhance my relationship with them.” Shiner said a while back, credit union managers were willing to put statements on disk for her but when that discussion “petered out,” and nothing happened, she decided to join the national organization’s complaint. “If other states are using the ATMs, Vermont can too,” she added. Steve Post, VSECU’s president/CEO said while he “could not discuss the specifics about any pending legal proceedings involving the credit union,” he emphasized that “the credit union has always been sensitive to the needs and requirements of some of our members.” Chittenden Bank’s President Paul Perrault offered “no comment” and calls to Phillip Daniels, president of Howard Bank and Tom Pelletier, president of Northfield Savings Bank were not returned. [email protected]

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