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Inclusive customer service

Removing physical barriers to your business is crucial, but it’s only half the story. In order to really welcome customers with disabilities and impairments to your business, it’s important to make sure that attitudinal barriers to customer service are also addressed.

Image of a Lady wearing a hearing aid drinking in a coffee shop typing on a laptop.

Sharing our journey

Whether you have one hundred or one million, your customers and how you serve them should be your number one priority. This section focuses on the ways in which you could consider making your customers’ experiences as accessible and inclusive as possible, from listening to their needs to the customer service they receive face-to-face, on the phone or in writing.

We hope that by sharing some examples of how we’ve approached this subject we will help other businesses to think how it could apply in their organisation

We have drawn on our own experiences, but we recognise that we are on a journey and there is a lot more to learn and do. We would love to hear how other organisations have approached creating or establishing accessible customer service – email to share your stories.

Understanding Inclusive Customer Service

There are four major components to creating an inclusive service in a business:

Inclusive service virtuous circle. Starts with understanding customers’ needs which progresses to building confident colleagues. This can then lead to developing solutions and promoting services which leads back to understanding customer’s needs.

Understanding customer needs

It’s no good second-guessing the needs of your customers (or potential customers), as this could lead to the development of unnecessary services and therefore wasted investment. But with so many different ways to approach accessibility, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start.

One way is to think about what your most-used services are, and then prioritise that.

This could be the way which customers transact with you (the channel), for example coming into your store versus visiting your website, or, why they visit you, for example buying a loaf of bread versus using the café.

Once you know where you want to start, you then need to consider what you might need to do. Asking customers, undertaking research or analysing complaints data might help signpost you to the things to focus on. Tapping into insight from your colleagues who have experience of disability is also invaluable. Understanding where and what to focus your efforts on will allow you to make some ‘quick wins’ for you and your customers.

Here are some ways we understand the needs of our customers:

  • Customer feedback - This can be as simple as listening to customers and making sure that feedback and ideas can easily make their way back to the appropriate Head Office team for review. Analysing customer complaints helps spot trends, identify new service opportunities and see where to make existing business processes or services better for our customers.
  • Working with experts - We work with leading accessibility experts, including charities such as Royal National Institute for the Blind, Action on Hearing Loss and the British Dyslexia Association who support our understanding of customer requirement. Consulting with organisations who truly understand what matters to our customers helps us improve our services and our approach.
  • Market research - From online surveys to mystery shopping, sometimes investing in market research can be a valuable way to gain insight. We have used output to target where we place resources as part of our continual improvement process.
  • Social Media - Channels like our @BarclaysAccess feed on Twitter connect us to people, charities, organisations and communities who are passionate about accessibility, inclusion and inclusive design. Not only is it a quick way to find out about problem areas to address or improve, but by staying abreast of the latest accessibility conversations and innovations we can stay tuned to where we can next make a difference.

The creation of the Barclays High Visibility Debit Cards (below) provides an example of how we have understood - and responded to - customer need. A Personal Banker in one of our branches told us that one of their customers found it really difficult to read the numbers on his debit card because he couldn’t distinguish colours very well.

To resolve the issue, we worked with the RNIB and the British Dyslexia Association to create 12 different debit card designs in a suite of high visibility colours and contrasts to make using our debit cards easier to use. The cards can be ordered for free by any customer‡ (opens in a new window). They can choose the colours that best suit them; some designs also have an arrow on the front to show which way to put the card into ATMs, and all have tactile notches for orientation.

Image of one of the cards available from Barclays

Building confident colleagues

Colleague confidence is critical to successfully achieving an accessible and inclusive service. We have found that sometimes a barrier to great customer service can be that staff lack confidence or shy away from talking to customers with disabilities as they are afraid of unintentionally causing offence, or not knowing the best way to help.

One way that we sought to address this issue was through sharing real-life experiences of people with disabilities in customer service situations. We turned these stories into short videos, making them easily shareable with many colleagues.

The videos, which are each only a few minutes long, feature real Barclays customers and colleagues, and address the needs of those with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Speech Impairment as well as customers who are Deaf, and who use our key capabilities such as SignVideo or Text Relay.

Although the videos were made for Barclays staff, the key messages are relevant for any retail service environment. They can help employees with a customer-facing role to better understand the needs of customers with different disabilities.

There are more resources in the ‘Getting started’ section under ‘Identifying potential barriers’, which may be useful to increase staff knowledge and understanding of disability.

Developing solutions

Contrary to what many might think, removing historical barriers doesn’t always have to involve lengthy dedicated projects and programmes or huge financial investment. We have found that is possible to make significant progress by leveraging opportunities which are already underway.

This can be done in a number of ways; such as re-thinking existing solutions, or, identifying new opportunities to build accessibility into other projects in the organisation. For example if a customer with hearing loss is having difficulty hearing in a large room as often the acoustics of a large room can make it difficult to hear consider moving to a smaller room; having seating in a waiting area for people with impaired mobility; thinking of offering a service at home can help people with disabilities.

One particular area of opportunity is often with digital transformation. Technological advancements and the lowering costs of everyday technology mean that sometimes accessible solutions may be easier than you think. For example, if an organisation needs to send a communication to a blind person, it may be an easier option for the customer to receive an email which could easily be read aloud using screen reader software on the person’s computer or smartphone. A simple, cheaper and more user-friendly solution to having to send an audio file or CD or Braille document in the post.

Barclays Case Study – Talking ATM

For us, one of the first transformative accessible services we introduced was the Talking ATM, which allows users to insert their earphones to a dedicated socket and complete transactions by listening to the audio output. This service can benefit lots of different users, including those with sight loss, dyslexia, learning difficulty or people who find it easier to understand spoken language but may not be able to read it as easily.

Having the ability to independently withdraw cash is something most people take for granted, so introducing an accessible way to do this provided something which made a dramatic difference to UK residents.

Watch the TV ad about our Talking ATM^ (opens in a new window)

Barclays Case Study – SignVideo

Solutions that are available for all customers can be of benefit to customers with disabilities. For example, our chat functionality in online banking helps customers whose preferred way to bank is online but they have a quick question to be answered, yet this service is also highly beneficial to customers who are Deaf or have hearing loss as they can communicate with us for their banking needs without having to use the phone.

A lady who is Deaf using SignVideo on iPad with a member of Barclays staff

We harnessed digital technology by developing a solution for our customers who use British Sign Language (BSL). This service called Sign Video enables our customers who are Deaf and use BSL to have instant sign language interpretation either from home using a webcam or in a branch using the Barclays iPad.

Providing instant access to this service means the customer experience better, as there is no longer a two to three week wait to book a face-to-face interpreter. This has also brought business benefits via cost savings through using a digital channel.

By thinking outside the box, we identified ways to leverage existing branch technology (branch iPads and WiFi) to create this solution - meaning that the project costs were kept to a minimum.

Read a short case study about the SignVideo branch service^ (opens in a new window)

Promoting services

As with all products and services, the biggest challenge is often ensuring that customers and colleagues know what is on offer. We have used several approaches to share information about accessible products and services with our customers and colleagues – vital for us to ensure we can connect with different audiences, a requirement we know is shared by all businesses.


Internal Events - In 2014 we hosted a series of accessibility roadshows in branches across the UK. The roadshows were week-long events hosted in the branch. We held training sessions for colleagues to share the improvements we were making who in turn could share this with customers.

The roadshow displays brought to life all the accessible services we offered and were a great talking point with customers. One part of the stand – an accessibility display table - was a particular success at the roadshow and so in 2015 we developed a portable version, which is a permanent feature in our flagship branches, but can also be taken to nearby branches for colleague training or for public events.

External Events – There are many national opportunities to raise awareness about the accessible services your business offers. For example, Disabled Access Day^ (opens in a new window), which is an annual event which encourages disabled people to get out and about to visit new accessible locations which are promoted on the Disabled Access Day site for free.

Another example is International Day of People with Disabilities^ (opens in a new window), which is held annually on 3 December around the world; a great opportunity to engage on the topic of disability with your customers, clients and colleagues.


Whether it’s traditional paid-for print or TV advertising, or cheaper options such as social media or editorial, it’s important to consider the ways in which you can share what you are doing to make your business accessible – after all, making your business accessible is only useful if your customers know about it.

Here are two marketing examples we used to publicise our SignVideo service

Watch our SignVideo TV ad^ (opens in a new window)
Read our SignVideo Telegraph article^ (opens in a new window)

In addition to marketing activity, it’s also important to ensure that your website is up-to-date in explaining the accessible services available as this is a core way customers will find information – and of course to make sure that your website is accessible…otherwise the very people you want to reach might not be able to read about or see what you offer.

Case Studies

Over the last few years we have talked to many other businesses about the work that they have done to become more accessible. Here are some examples of best practice case studies from businesses and organisations and how they have approached making their business accessible for all.

Read about the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation commitment to accessibility and confident colleagues PDF† (1.1MB) (opens in a new window)

Read about how the 2012 Olympics was a catalyst for change for McDonald’s Customer Service PDF† (505KB) (opens in a new window)

Read Teletape’s inclusive product design for mobile phones case study PDF† (455KB) (opens in a new window)

If you have examples that you would like to share please contact us at

For more information

For the latest updates on accessibility at Barclays follow us on Twitter @BarclaysAccess (opens in a new window) or go to‡ (opens in a new window).

Learn more about making your business accessible

Inclusive workplaces
Attracting, supporting and developing a diverse workforce.

Inclusive design
A general approach to creating new products and services that address the needs of the widest possible audiences.

Collaboration and knowledge-sharing
Great things can happen when you work together with like-minded individuals and organisations.

How can we help?

To discuss switching to Corporate Banking at Barclays, call us on: 0800 015 4242 *